Differences are just a slip of the mother tongue
- February 17, 2013
There’s no worries about celebrating Australian English
Likewise, breezy conversation closers such as ”no dramas”, ”too easy” or (my personal favourite) ”good on ya” convey the kind of casual optimism that is the secret envy of my morose compatriots. We Brits, at least those of my generation, born and bred on a soggy little island, raised on fish-fingers, mushy peas and Margaret Thatcher, can find a positive outlook something of a stretch.
There is an almost athletic vigour to many Australian expressions, which again concurs with the outdoorsy, boisterous national stereotype. You lot don’t just arrive, turn up or get there. No, you insist on ”rocking up”. I don’t believe I’ve ever rocked up anywhere, and I doubt I ever will, no matter how long I remain here. It sounds so energetic. It’s telling that the sedate British greeting of ”How are you?” is rendered more dynamic, with its emphasis on motion, by the Aussie variant, ”How ya goin’?”
There’s one word, used more widely here than in Britain, that strikes an odd chord for me. The first time I heard a violent physical assault described as a ”bashing” on a news bulletin, I almost choked on my (Marmite on) toast. Getting ”bashed” always sounds a bit cartoonish to me.
Naturally, my own speech these days betrays the time I have spent in Australia. I no longer correct myself on the occasions I mistake flip-flops for thongs or a beer bottle for a stubby. I love saying ”No worries” and I’m even beginning to mean it when I do. My language is changing, and so is everyone else’s.
Language doesn’t stand still, not even the fusty old English language. Right now it seems in the throes of some kind of seismic shift, getting freaky with hash tags and acronyms. It seems likely that a hundred years from now, whatever’s being spoken and ”written” around these parts won’t look a hell of a lot like what we have now. Which is why it’s also worth reflecting, on International Mother Language Day, that Australia is the custodian of the oldest known languages on earth. And that most of them are endangered.
Ian Rose is a freelance writer.