Sunday, October 21, 2012

English: UK vs US vs Me

After my last rant post about American English, Maine Character found me this awesome BritSpeak quiz, and it made me realise something interesting: Australian English falls somewhere between US and UK. I understand the UK words, but I don't use about half of them. 

So let's go through a test: 

Take the test here! 

French fries vs chips. 

Confusingly, we use both. If I go to McDonalds I will order fries, because that's what the product is called. However, if I go to the takeaway place down the road I will order fish and chips, because that's what the product is called there. Same product, different context. So these things: 



Chips. And these things: 



These are also chips. Not crisps, like they're called in the UK. I guess we Aussies have just learned to deal with the crazy ambiguity. 

Closet vs Wardrobe. Um...can I just throw cupboard in the mix to confuse things? 

Dessert vs pudding. Dessert. Because pudding sounds like something the Famous Five would be given to eat at boarding school. Something with custard. They would think if was spiffing. 

Sneakers vs trainers. Sneakers, although we use both words here. I just prefer to sneak than to train. 

Vacation vs holiday. Holiday. 

Money vs dosh. Money. That's a win for US English. 

Spatula vs fish slice. Another win for US English. If I want to slice a fish, I presume I would use some sort of knife. Also, I'm pretty sure that a spatula has more uses beyond fish-related cutting. 

Eraser vs rubber. Rubber. And no, rubber is not a funny euphemism for condom if you're not fourteen. 

Mayhem vs Bedlam. Bedlam, all the way, but that may be the history nerd in me coming out. I love the idea that a notorious asylum lives on in the language. 

Crib vs cot. Cot. 

So I think that works out to about half US and half UK English in my Aussie vernacular. But there are some words in me that are uniquely Australian. Where blue is not just a colour, it's a fight. Unless it's a redhead, in which case it's a colour again. Or, if it's true blue, it's fair dinkum. Clear as mud?  

*** 

Did you check out the BritSpeak test? How did you go? 

18 comments:

  1. I did well, didn't miss any, but I live in Canada, on the west coast. I still slip up on occasion with a deep south reference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good work!

      I think Canadian English is in the same position as Australian -- stuck somewhere between the US and the UK.

      Delete
  2. First of all, in the US you put your wardrobe IN your closet. Pudding IS a dessert. We wear sneakers WHEN we're training. We take vacation ON holidays. Have no idea what dosh is, but that sounds silly and made up. And using a rubber won't erase what you did last night. :PP

    Just kidding/joking/joshing/fooling around/teasing. Actually, it's kind of a testament to the English language that it keeps sprouting new offshoots, depending on the soil it's grown in.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. English is a fantastically versatile language, in all its forms!

      I have to admit, it took a while for me to get your first sentence. Why the hell would you put a wardrobe inside a closet? Then it clicked! :)

      Delete
  3. I also got along alright with 100%. Although here, we're more likely to refer to crisps/chips as chippies.
    But then, like you, we've got a 50/50 thing going on with everyday words. Let's not even go into the unique terms there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The unique words are the most fun!

      There is nothing more hilarious than two so-called native English speakers realising they have absolutely no idea what they're saying to each other.

      Delete
  4. So in the Harry Potter movie, when they're going to dinner and Luna hopes there's pudding, she's actually talking about rum cake and whip cream shots?

    Also, I just took another round of the test and had no clue that a run in my pantyhose is called a ladder. Thought sure it was a wobbly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't even get started on underwear terms! That's where it all gets very different!

      Delete
    2. But you're supposed to be an expert in underwear. Or at least taking it off. :-)

      Delete
    3. Hey, there's no need to bring my personal life into it...

      Oh, wait...

      :)

      Delete
  5. Interesting, Jen. I'm a qualified Professional Editor and Proof Reader, and the style guide and prerequisite dictionary are the same for UK and Aus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Editors are awesome -- wonderful, patient people! :)

      Delete
  6. In the entire course of my life I have never once heard anyone refer to money as dosh except when they're joking. I think the makers of that quiz have watched too much Only Fools and Horses :P

    That said, I eat pudding all the time XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which is weird, because I have heard money referred to as dosh in Australia...not often, but I've heard it.

      And to me pudding is a type of dessert, like rice pudding or sticky date pudding or something. But the actual meal course is dessert.

      Delete
    2. And now I want rice pudding...

      Delete
    3. And I rather fancy an apple crumble ^_^

      Delete
  7. I found I was with you on most of your examples. Living in Canada now, I've had to get used to a half-way mix between UK and US.

    I've never heard of "trainers" being called "sneakers", I always wondered what "sneakers" actually were. Just to confuse things, here, they are "runners".

    I think UK has a lot more slang terms for some things. Money = dosh (yes, I have heard that in use), dough, lucre, readies, wonga, and probably many more.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think Oz and NZ are pretty similar. I got the quiz all correct, but only by process of elimination. I'd never heard of "zapping" or an "air screw" before, and these are apparently British words.

    ReplyDelete

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