Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lost in Translation

Every week it seems that I encounter a new Aussie word that requires translation.  For example, a couple of weeks ago there was a story in the paper about "Bowser Rage," in which a man was punched in the face, hit his head on the concrete, and fell into a coma after apparently cutting in line while people were lined up for the next bowser.  What's a bowser, my American readers are asking?  Simple: a gas pump at a service station.  According to the story, about 40% of Queenslanders reported experiencing bowser rage in the past six months.  Oh my!

I confused two students this week while I was giving them feedback about papers.  I told one that some information should be provided in parentheses.  "What is that?" she asked.  I soon learned that many Aussies have no idea that Americans refer to () as parentheses and [] as brackets.  For Australians, both are called brackets.  I told another student that she needed to put a period after "et al" -- which prompted a blank look.  The right term here is "full stop," like the thing that appears at the end of this sentence.

A few days ago I was sent the following video by a Kiwi living here in Brisbane.  Back in March when I was at a conference in Wellington, I couldn't appreciate my Aussie colleagues' laughter about the New Zealand accent.  To tell you the truth, I still have a hard time detecting it.  There seems to be so much variation in Aussie accents that a Kiwi could easily slip in undetected.  The humour of this video was therefore lost on me:

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