I know I’ve already written about spelling and diction in previous blog entries, but something today at work has prompted me to write yet another blog about how Aussies speak. Or, rather, how Aussies speak funny.
I randomly met an Australian speech pathologist a few months ago and she mentioned that it’s a bit more difficult for people to learn how to speak properly in Australia than it is to learn how to speak properly in the United States, Canada, or even England. When it comes to pronunciation, vowel sounds are often shortened, whole syllables dropped, or inflection changed. To say it bluntly, Australians are notoriously lazy speakers. They’re like the Mexicans of the language world.
Just kidding! Mexicans aren’t lazy. That’s just me perpetuating stereotypes again.
Anyway, I didn’t notice this too much at first, but as I go along, it’s definitely catching my attention more and more. What really gets me are the dropping of syllables – or dropping of whole words really. Geography is a perfect example: when referring to Surfers Paradise, Australians only say “Surfers”. Same goes for Byron Bay – you only need “Byron”. Coffs Harbours is simply “Coffs” and Alice Springs is just plain “Alice” – like the whole city represents the maid or nanny or whatever that lady was on the Brady Bunch.
Your locale only has one word in its name? How do you shorten that? It’s simple! Use the diminutive so it sounds endearing and it’s shorter! For example, Tasmania becomes “Tassie” (pronounced “Tazzie” – because they hate using the letter “z” here). “But, Phill, my city only has two syllables to begin with. How on Earth can I shorten that?”
No worries, outsiders! The Australians have an answer: change the last syllable to make it diminutive and shorten the vowel sound on it. Brisbane becomes “Brissie” and the Gold Coast becomes “Goldie”. Who needs two whole syllables when you can have… one syllable and then a different syllable?
Need more examples? Darlinghurst becomes “Darlo” and Paddington becomes “Paddo” and Wagga Wagga becomes “Wagga” – because who needs that second wagga anyway?
(As an aside, “Wagga Wagga” is a real place. “Wagga” means crow or something in an Aboriginal language, and they pluralize it by saying it twice, therefore “Wagga Wagga” means more than one crow. And since there are multiple crows there, I won’t be going, because I hate birds.)
It’s not just geographical place names that get shortened: anything can be shortened if you put your mind to it! Registration (as in car registration) is far too long of a word for Australian English. Let’s just call it “rego”. Afternoon’s three syllables getting you down by late morning? Just say “arvo” instead! Because getting arvo out of afternoon makes complete sense seeing as both have the letter “v”.
Americans have four syllables so let’s just call them “Yanks”. And Brits? We’ll call them “Poms” because maybe the vowel sound is shorter? I don’t know. Australia’s national soccer team is known as the Roos – short for Socceroos. And if you need to buy groceries, head on over to Woolies – or Woolworth’s as the sign says. An “esky” is a cooler or ice chest (this I learned fairly recently) and they call it that because it’s cold like an Eskimo. Seriously. Esky is like Xerox or Kleenex or Google or Band-Aid in that it’s a brand name (proper noun) that has become synonymous with the item (common noun). But what gets me is this: the brand isn’t “Eskimo” – it’s “Esky”. The creator got lazy with the language even before his product hit the shelf. “Eskimo seems like such a long name for a cooler. Let’s just call it Esky.” Ugh.
But today – today was the last straw. My boss was on the phone with a client and I heard this come out of his mouth:
“Did you have a nice Chrissie?”
Are you kidding me? You shorten Christmas too? Because Christmas is just too long to say I suppose. There’s something about the -mas suffix that makes Christmas seem like seven syllables instead of two. (Ok, no there’s not. This is bullshit.)
Chrissie should not be short for Christmas. Chrissie is a name for a woman – and more specifically – it sounds like a name for a woman who makes her living dancing naked around a stripper pole in front of a bunch of gross, horny, old perverts or Japanese businessmen. Or – if not a stripper – then a full-fledged whore. Seriously. Chrissie is a whore’s name and now it sounds like Christmas is just some big whore. Isn't it supposed to be about Mary being a virgin and all? This is defeating the purpose. “Did you have a nice Chrissie?” Why, yes, she was delightful and only cost $50 per hour. It's times like that I'm extra thankful that I'm a big Jew.
“And did you get any good pressies?”
For fuck’s sake! Pressies?!?!? (pronounced “prezzies” of course) Pressies sounds like something you say to a three year-old. And I seriously doubt the broker on the phone was a three year-old, because if a three year-old could do my job I’d say fuck it and play with building blocks all day instead.
Australians don’t seem to care or even notice that they are lazy with the language. But the moment I say “whatev” or “ridick” (short for ridiculous) they stare at me like I’m from outer space. Ugh.