Monday, May 14, 2012

A Linguistic Turn

As The Wife has also discussed on her blog, one of the fun parts about moving to a new country is hearing all the new slang and trying to figure out what it means from context.  Hearing contestants on The Block say phrases like "I'm stuffed, and now we're under the pump" makes us smile.  (don't get me started on "chippies" and "sparkies").

I'm still trying to figure out the exact parameters of some of the slang.  Take the globally-famous "mate", for example.  I hear it applied to me all the time, in every conceivable context: from strangers and people I know; from shopkeepers and academic colleagues; from men and women.  I don't think there's a non-Australian equivalent that has such widespread meaning.   In North America, "Buddy", "Pal", and "Man", for example, are gender specific based on the recipient (women aren't usually called "pal", for example).  "Sweetie", "Hon", and "Dear" are gender specific based on the speaker (waitresses might call every customer "Hon", but I've never seen a waiter do it).  "Dude" in some parts of the U.S. might almost be equivalent in its ubiquity, but is very informal.

I've also grappled with whether I should adopt the phraseology and pronunciations as my own.  Should I start asking people "How you are going" instead of "How are you doing"?  Should I start pronouncing it "to-mah-toes" instead of "to-mae-toes"?  Would that be a nice adjustment or acting as a poseur?

It's also interesting because my previous exposure to Australian slang was, like it seems everyone's in North America, limited to having seen Crocodile Dundee.  In contrast, the dominance of American pop culture extends to Australia, leaving me guessing what references I need to explain and what can be taken for granted. If I mention the NFL, for example, does everyone know what that means?  After all, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched global events in the world, and I don't want to be condescending if I mention that when I'm talking about football I don't mean soccer; but I also don't want to be misunderstood.

Anyway, we can't wait to see what sort of slang Boomer ends up picking up . . .

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