If only Americans talked like this.

17 Aug

I love the way Aussies talk.

I’m here for work, so in addition to hanging out with our Australian team, I’ve been able to get out and meet a client or two, and sit in on an interview this week.

My second day in town I attended a visit with the Studio Manager of a large financial institution. He was an incredibly nice guy, who spent an hour helping us understand the organization structure and business challenges he faced. It was a great meeting, but I had to stifle giggles when the conversation shifted to industry trends.


“We’re seeing a big push to move digital,” he said. “Going paperless and all that…”

The agent with me made a comment about how quickly the technology is evolving and the opportunities for mobile application development, and was met by affirmation from the client. His observation:

“Just the other day, I was on the train home and looked over and saw a wee little baby in a pram, licking an iPad.”

I love that. I can’t imagine that sentence ever surfacing during a client visit in the US. Sigh. I love the Aussies.

Then today, I shadowed an interview with an Art Director. The man was clearly talented and had an amazing portfolio of work that could rival Don Draper. But he cracked me up by explaining one credential that wasn’t listed on his CV.

“I was CLEO’s Bachelor of the Year in the 1990s,” he mentioned, somewhat sheepishly. “It’s really not important, but I’m fairly well known in the industry, and someone may ask if I’m THAT bloke, so you might as well know.”

And that then triggered quite a colorful story. “I was recently divorced and a complete mess back then. I was seeing a woman. Well, two women. Well, like a normal bloke I was actually seeing a lot of women. These relationships were very transient, you see…”

As the story continued, every time he dropped a true swear word (ie. “shit” or a silently mouthed version of the f-bomb), he would interrupt the story to look at me and apologize, while taking it for granted that the Ozzie running the interview wasn’t in any way offended. (She wasn’t.) But what had me really rolling was that he used the word “wanker” no fewer than 40 times in describing the other people in the contest.

You just have to love that.

At one point during the interview when he was talking about a trend to commoditize work, I commented, “That’s unfortunate, but not altogether shocking.”

Shark/Shock. This could go either way.

He looked at me and said, “I like that! Is that an American expression?”

“Shocking?” I asked, confused.

“Yeah. What does it mean? Like circling in, closing in on something?”

I had a pretty blank look on my face, when my colleague jumped in to clarify.

“Oh! No, she said SHOCKING, not SHOCKING,” I heard her explain.

The guy’s face lit up. “Oh! It’s her accent. I thought she said SHOCKING and I thought, ‘that’s a fun phrase!’”

At this point I was royally confused, so I interrupted them. “I did say shocking. What do you think I said?”

“Shocking!” they cried together. But at this point, the guy put his hand on his head and it looked a bit like a dorsal fin.

It was my turn to exclaim. “Oh! You thought I said SHARKING!”

Just goes to show, language is only a small part of communication.

Even so, I love the Aussies. Or Ozzies. Or — whatever. I just love them.

12 Responses to “If only Americans talked like this.”

  1. thesinglecell August 17, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    I am going to use the word “sharking” now. With my hand on my head. As if it’s not bad enough that I’ve seen “Finding Nemo” too many times, and during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel I kept going “Shark Week! Oooh ha ha!”. Aloud. Anyway, I was in Australia nearly 20 years ago and I still use phrases and terms I learned while I was there. Including “wanker.” And sometimes “bloody wanker,” which I actually find to be a horrifying visual. If you start calling carryout food “take-away,” and dreaming in Aussie accents, you will have officially learned the language.

    • pithypants August 18, 2011 at 5:17 am #

      I love the word wanker and wish we used it in American English. It’s such a great word and more imaginative than just calling someone an idiot or dipshit.

  2. lexy3587 August 17, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    haha, you had me cracking up while reading this – especially the last bit – SHOCKING!

    • popdialectic August 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      Awesome interaction. I’d suggest to your client that they check Urban Dictionary before they start telling everyone that they’re into “sharking” people. It’s American, and it only tengentially means closing in …

  3. thesinglecell August 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    BTW – I’ve saddled you with an award. Check out my post from today to find out all about it. http://thesinglecell.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/in-which-i-bestow-honors-on-people/

    • pithypants August 18, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      Awesome! Thanks for putting me at the top of your list, and right back at you — as soon as I get a chance to uncross my eyes and write properly!

  4. Lorna's Voice August 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    I love accents, too. I can’t speak a language other than English, but I have a knack for accents and dialects. It’s fun to adopt different personas based on which country (or which area from America) I want to be. I often fool the “natives.”

    Great story!

    • pithypants August 18, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      Lorna, I *think* I can do accents, until people listening to me say, “Wait! I thought this was supposed to be an Italian guy? Why does he sound Chinese?”

  5. Sara no "H" August 18, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    When I was in England I had a little 3 yo Scottish/English girl ask me “Can I smile for ya” when she wanted me to take a picture. I loved it. So cute.

    • pithypants August 19, 2011 at 5:08 am #

      Love that. Tonight I kept going around the bush with one of our team from Ireland. She kept saying, “Was it a FRATE!?!” I kept asking her to repeat herself. She did and I was still clueless, so I asked her to spell it. I couldn’t understand her letters. So she finally said, “Let’s pretend you’re Homer Simpson! Did it scare you?” And then I realized she meant “fright.” Jeez.

  6. Martha Goudey August 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    My four-year-old half Caucasian, half Japanese, great nephew was born and so far raised in Australia. He speaks Aussie. But so far I haven’t heard him say “Wanker,” or “Sharking,” but give him time.

    • pithypants August 19, 2011 at 5:05 am #

      I think that’s introduced at the six-year mark. 😉

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