Language is often a window into culture. But, it’s easy to fall into the intercultural trap of believing that shared language equals shared meaning, similar cultural values, or even a high level of professional competency.
The nuances of English to English translations can be amusing at best and offensive at worst. So, here are five of our favorite confusions between speakers of Australian English and American English:
Australia: The entrée is the appetizer.
US: The entrée is the main course.
Therefore, an Australian in the US could be quite offended by the waiter’s suggestion that she order the entrée size Fettuccine Alfredo instead!
Australia: (vulgar) slang meaning to have sex
US: to cheer
In order to support a team in Australia, you’d be best advised to barrack for them, rather than root for them!
US: A time in the middle of the day, usually between 12pm and 2pm
So when making plans, be sure to specify which “midday” time you mean to avoid scheduling issues.
Australia: fortnight or fortnightly
US: two weeks or biweekly
The term fortnight is not typically used in American English. It comes from the old English fourteen nights (fēowertyne niht). Even the term biweekly can cause confusion in American English because it can mean twice per week or every two weeks.
Australia: power point
Consequently, if your Australian colleagues are looking for a power point, they may just need to plug in their laptops rather than review a presentation file!
Remember that Australian English shortens lots of words too. As a result, breakfast becomes brekkie, sunglasses become sunnies, and afternoon becomes arvo.
And with that we will say hooroo, which is very old fashioned Australian slang for goodbye. So you’d probably only hear it from the older generations or someone living in the Australian countryside. 😉