Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Australianisms: Episode 1

Australians speak English, but their vocabulary includes quite a few more words than American English, plus many meanings are different.  I plan to chronicle these differences as I come across them.


I'm used to hearing about people "getting their swag on" or "being swag."  I always thought of it was a Justin Bieberism - "I'm-too-cool-for-school-and-my-pants-hang-low-but-I-call-it-swag"  Being swag in the states is to be cool or hip.  Being swag is being sly, being cool.  Urban dictionary explains it best.

This came up when I googled "swag"
Google Images baffles me sometimes  
American swag: Supposedly these kids "got their swag on"

Swag in Australia isn't an adjective or abstract noun, it's quite concrete, and a practical noun at that.  Swag is a tent or single-person sleeping bag with a hood, a self-contained tiny tent.  When I was out in the bush for the footy final, I stayed in a swag.  It was incredibly comfortable and I felt very safe from the elements.  I get that a "swag" is a camping term, but I still can't help think about the Justin Bieber kids being all "swaggy," haha.

Real swag - self-contained tent

"Frock up"

To "frock up" is the Australian female version of "suit up."  I had some guy friends in college who would "suit up" for the night.  They'd pull out a nice-looking suit and head out to the bars for a fun night.  If a girl were to "suit-up" respectively it would involve putting on a prom dress.  And a group of girls in prom dresses at the bars just doesn't have the same connotation or appearance as a set of guys looking debonair in suits.  I was always kind of jealous that us girls didn't have an equivalent "suit up" for a night out.

The Geelong Cup is coming up - a preliminary to the Melbourne Cup (equivalent of the Kentucky Derby).  It's customary for everyone in town to attend, whether or not you love horse racing.  After all, Victoria is horse-racing country.  Most people go just to get all dressed up and enjoy drinking champagne and gambling.  It's a day off (everyone in town gets the day off from work) to have fun and let loose.

Photo from last year's Geelong cup

The Geelong Cup is also a chance to "suit up" and "frock up."  For some reason whenever I talk with people back in the states about "suiting up", it's in a colloquial term, said amongst my peers.  If I were to tell someone over the age of 40 that we were going to suit up for the weekend, I think they would look at me weird and I've have to explain the meaning.  But here in Australia - to suit up and frock up, that's an everyday term used by all age groups.  I've told a few people at work that I plan to attend the Geelong cup.  "Ah, so you're going to frock up then, jolly good time"  Super weird.  You're 60ish and you're using 20-30isms...

These ladies took advantage of the opportunity to "frock up"
They're showing the frock off, way to pose so frocking classily....ok I'll stop

Another vocab word I came across along with "frock up" - ladies wear fancy hats or bundles of feathers/sequins/seashells/baskets/etc on their heads, this is a "fascinator"  Likely I haven't heard this term because I'm not in the racing business, and I'm not English, but a fascinator is the term for whatever the heck is pinned onto your head for the horse races.  I looked around at the mall for a bit last weekend to find a "fascinator" for myself - those things are expensive!!!!!  $15 for a bit of feathers to wear on my head once a year?  That's crap.

From a Geelong newspaper:  Ladies demonstrating this year's fashionable frocks and fascinators

This fascinator business fascinates  (Sorry, couldn't help myself there)  I can see how some dresses are fashionable one season and then a new cut/new fabric style comes into fashion and the old one goes out of style.  But a bit of feathers and cardboard - how the heck is that fashionable one season and old-fashioned the next? did a "hot or not" article on fascinators - how can one be called awesome yet another hideous when they're all ridiculous to begin with?

Some options that I found this weekend - check out that pink and black one, oo la la
I think my main distaste for fascinators it that it's sooooo expensive to wear only once.  I may splurge and buy one, since I already have a dress and shoes to wear, but I just hate spending that kind of money on something like this.  I'd rather spend it on a fun trip or something really tasty.

So, Australianisms...

Again, these words are just used in different context that I'm not used to.  People say things all the time that I think is inappropriate but it's a normality.  Another example:  I know that the dictionary definition of "naughty" is to be bad, but in my experience, the word naughty is only used in sexual innuendo.  Here, Australians use it all the time to talk about children's bad behavior.  "She's a naughty little girl"  And having been accustomed only to the sexual innuendo use of "naughty", it throws me way off guard.

I'm sure I'll discover many more Australianisms, but these are the ones I had to share with you this evening!  Enjoy and feel like an awkward American like I do ;)

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