Monday, February 23, 2009

Differences I now know

"Let's Talk Strine." There are the subtle linguistic things...for example, I noticed how all of your Mexicans speak Chinese. Of course, this makes ordering a taco quite the predicament. And one early situation with Chinese-break dancers nearly came to blows because I thought someone would surely nun chuck me. Boy did I feel foolish when I realized that perhaps my thorough understanding of eastern culture...based entirely on 1970's Bruce Lee films...was inadequate.

Then there are the stark differences, including my favorite thing about Australia that can be found in St. Kilda...and I'm not so sure if it is the quality so much as the purity of that town's heroin is second to none! So, when mum calls to ask how my trip to Australia is coming along, I can honestly reply, "Golly-Gee, Mum. On the whole, it's great! The heroin is here is exquisite, but you can't find a decent taco anywhere!"

Then, of course, there are the cliché linguistic differences. In particular, there is the rising inflection that so many comedians talk about...most cultures only ask questions with a rising inflection, but Australians question that technique by making a statement with it. "Fair Dinkum, mate?"

Of course, I now understand that Fair Dinkum is a, "filler phrase." It's not even a rhetorical question. But the rising inflection is confusing for the newly acquainted to Australia. For many months I somehow presumed you were asking me to be on some type of Panel of Dinkum Judges. I assumed the Judges of Dinkum determined if something is Fair or Unfair Dinkum. Boy, was I red in the face when I learned the truth. I now know that every Dinkum is a Fair Dinkum!

"Yeah-nah," and "Look" are two other Australian "filler phrases" that can confuse the newly appointed Judges of Dinkum. I assumed "yeah" to be colloquial for "yes" and "nah" colloquial for "no." I couldn't have been wronger. "Yes" and "No" are words that mean the opposite of one another, clearly. "Yeah-nah" means, "I don't want to say yes and sound cocky nor do I need to say no at this moment in time so I will just waste a sentence with a word that means nothing at all but keeps conversation flowing."

"Look," on the other hand is confusing as a "filler phrase" because of its positive/neutral connotations in Australia. In the United States, sentences that begin with "Look..." usually end badly. For example, "Look...we need to break up..." or I've often heard it used as such, "Look...Mr. Bulman, the court rules in favor of the prosecution and you are not to come within 50 feet of her known whereabouts."

In Australia, "Look..." is used if I ask someone where the supermarket is...and it's harmless. "Look, mate, you want to go down this street and make a right and go through the car park. You can't miss the Safeway. G'day." Because I've been conditioned to it's negative connotations, including the sound of police sirens, I often ran away at the start of the sentence. I've stopped this now.

Thanks, affirmative and neutral "Lookers"...These are some of the differences I now know.

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