i have spent the last two days in the car reading the book in a sunburned country by bill bryson. ryan sneakily bought (like a fox!) and surprise gifted me the book upon his departure, knowing that he had sparked my interest in australia and that this author’s style of writing would thoroughly entertain me.
after finishing the first hundred pages, i got the urge to write about my own australian experiences. although i have yet to make the long journey to the land down under, i have just had a month living amongst them.
when you meet an australian – or maybe you don’t, but mark and i do – you become fascinated with their culture (aka taste vegemite) and their vernacular. they are speaking english, yet you’ll be in a regular conversation and all the sudden have no clue what was said in the last three sentences. a string of words form and you stare blankly at the mouth forming them.
“did you just say words?” became a common phrase that i would utter in confusion to my aussie companions.
i figured since i would be spending a month with these blokes, i might as well start trying to learn their language. i came naturally to the mumbling that often ensues when their speech gets excited. i am pretty well known for blurring all my words into one and barely opening my mouth while i do it. so, no problem there.
then there is the complete nonexistence of the letter ‘r’. or rather the sound the letter ‘r’ makes. it was pretty fun since mark and i both have the letter in our names. rrrrrrrrrrrrrr. aussies don’t need that letter. too good for the ‘r’. they just graze right over it when it’s in the middle of a word.
insert time here to practice your best australian accent.
i suck at the accent. i did seem to be way better at it when immediately repeating a phrase after it left their mouths. like a parrot. but left to my own devices, a cross between a pirate and a brit was the best i could come up with. sort of like paul rudd in the movie i love you, man.
but despite my horrible accent and inability to completely disregard the eighteenth letter of the alphabet, i decided to slip into my studious nature and really get a handle on the jibberish that was being spat at us.
so of course, like any good foreign language student, i started a dictionary. anytime ryan or ben would say something completely absurd, i would add it to the list. there was only one problem…
sara: wait, what’d you just say?
sara: can you spell that?
sara: um, so, can you spell that?
ryan: um, no
this conversation happened nearly every single time i learned a new word. ben was able to help me out on some of the words, but in general, it seems as though the spelling is open to interpretation. or at least it is in my australian dictionary. so if you are australian or are an expert in aussie slang, please forgive my misspellings.
now it was hard to get ryan and ben to come up with new words for me to learn on the spot. so, i had to be a patient student and wait for my tutors to slip into their native tongue unknowingly. then, i would pounce! eagerly ask them what the heck a “capsicum” was and proudly added it to my dictionary when they responded “a pepper.” then, i would share the new word with mark who would spend the whole next day using it at hilariously inappropriate times.
i added about sixty words to my australian dictionary over the past month and learned that when in doubt, shorten the word and add an ‘o’ or ‘y’ and you’re probably good to go. so after a month of studies with two amazing australian tutors, i am taking on the challenge. here goes nothing. enjoy.
a story where i attempt to use every aussie word i learned from ryan and ben
by sara schneider (don’t pronounce the letter r)
disclaimer: this story’s plot is going to make no sense.
once upon a time, in a land full of the deadliest creatures known to man (including the drop bears), lived a simple sheila named sydney and her lil’ tacker out in the bush. her daughter was a cute little ranga named adelaide who was always getting into trouble. she took after her dad.
her father was a dodgy bloke who lived in an old combi down by the sea. he laid on the beach all day in dirty tracky dacks and a ripped singlette neckin’ the dregs out of every stubby he could find in his disheveled esky. it’s one thing to sink some piss on the shore and haggle the nippers a bit, but this bloke was heaps of headaches. he was built like a brick shithouse but stumbled stupidly from too much grog.
all those years ago, adelaide’s mother thought the doc was stirrin’ her when she went in for the wog and came out up the duff. strewth. but that’s what you get when you are young and toey, skull too many goonsacks, and get a good root from the first bloke who perves on ya.
she left the doc feeling a bit how ya goin’ but ended up loving the silly duffa once adelaide was in her arms. they left the hospital ready to live a life with no wuckas. sydney hopped in her ute, threw her bags in boot, and checked under the bonnet. with a few cranks of the spanner she was headed back out on the endless bitumen with adelaide wrapped up all starkers beneath her doona taking a kip. such a cute little possum. riggy dige.
sydney raised adelaide to be a wiz in the kitchen. fucking oath she made delicious combinations of pumpkin and pecans (pronounced pee-cans). perfectly flavored spag bol with freshly grown capsicums. filets (pronounced fill-its) and prawns and yabbies on the barbi. amazing chook and avo sangas with a side of chips. just grab a serviette and dig into the best tucker in town.
sometimes adelaide would be a little sooky la la when she thought about her lack of a father, but sydney always knew she’d be apples. when she was younger, she would just let her dink on their bicycle for a fun arvo ride and all would be swell to the max. but today, she had a squize at adelaide’s diary and learned a secret.
“g’day addy,” said sydney in a somber motherly tone. “are you having a win?”
adelaide stared at sydney. she was now almost eighteen and wanted nothing to do with her mother. “i’m a bit of all right,” she responded uninterested.
“i reckon you’re feeling a bit shit hot huh?” sydney said trying to pry a bit deeper. she walked to the fridge, grabbed two toheys, stuck them in a couple of stubby coolers, and handed one to adelaide. she drank in the cold beer and smirked.
“tah. righto, mum.”
“good on ya addy,” sydney scoffed. “you thought you’d get away with it, but i happened to read your diary today.”
“fair dinkum…” adelaide trailed off. she didn’t care at all what her mother knew.
and i don’t care what she knew either because i just used all my words. boom doggle!
if you would like a translation, let me know. i can now be your australian tutor. (oh, and i can teach you all the states and capitals.) however, they do say you always learn a language better when you immerse yourself in the culture and language. maybe i need to do an australian immersion as my next adventure. learn a bit more about the infamous ned kelly and uncle chop chop.
for now, i’ll return to bill bryson’s account of the interesting island we call australia.