My Australian Alphabet

Before I moved to Sydney, I had pretty hard held beliefs that I wouldn’t change my language style. I remember making fun of Odie while I was visiting him here, when he said “to-ma-to” and “How ya going?” and “transport”, etc. He told me he couldn’t help it, that it just happens to you when you’re immersed in another culture. I thought it was pretty douchey* to adopt speech and colloquialisms from another country and use them as your own. Like when Madonna when she married Guy Ritchie and called herself Madge and put on that weird British accent. Or when Gretchen Weiners tried to make Fetch happen.

Oh, but how all of that has changed. I’m using a whole slew of different words, and eating the words I spoke previously. It does happen.

A – Aluminium (a-loo-min-i-um), not Aluminum (a-loo-min-um). Turns out, Canada and the US are the only countries that use the Aluminum spelling. It’s also called “al-foil” or “tin foil.” I’ll keep calling it Reynolds Wrap because I’m trained on brand recognition.


Unrelated, but starts with A: It’s spelled Aussie, but pronounced Ozzie. I always thought saying Ozzie was wrong. Whoops.

B – Bogan. A Bogan is an Australian Redneck. Rednecks, but with a better accent.

Put an American flag on that shirt and he'd be equally at home in the States.
Put an American flag on that shirt and he’d be equally terrible and at home in the States.

C – Capsicum. It’s not a green or red or yellow pepper, it’s a capsicum. Makes me feel fancy.

a steal at $8.98/kg.

D – Doona. When Joel and I were first emailing each other, he at one point said something about how good it is to “wrap up in a feather doona.” After a confused Google search, I found out that doona is a word for comforter, or in his case, a feather comforter.

Hello, Doona Doggie
Hello, Doona Doggie

E – Expiry (ex-pie-ry). It’s not “Expiration date?” it’s “Expiry?” and when you hear it over the phone, it sounds like someone asking you if you’re an ex-pirate. I never know how to answer.

F – Footpath. Otherwise known as a sidewalk. And everyone walks on the left. Same with escalators, where people walk to the left and stand to the right. It’s taken a long time to relax my Washington DC instincts when I’m on the escalator, where you will be mowed down by commuters if you’re standing on the right.

Footpath dog!
Footpath dog!

G – Garden. It’s not a yard, it’s a garden. Even when it’s completely trashed and whacked out.

A garden full of trashy treasures.
A garden full of trashy treasures.

H – Holiday. People don’t go on vacation, they go on holiday. Which makes going away sound so much better. Vacation kinda implies tourists and sun burns and shitty hotels. Holiday sounds indulgent and exciting. From now on, I’m going Holiday. Even if it’s just a holiday to my couch.

A photo from our recent family couch getaway.

I – Ice block. You won’t hear many people say “popsicle”, because it’s an “ice block” here. Australians aren’t trained on brand recognition, apparently. There’s also an ice block called “Splice” that makes me think of a popsicle infected with alien parasites that will eventually take over your body and kill you after you eat it.

Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!
Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!

J – Jumper. I’ve adopted this one pretty quick. I’ve always known jumpers to be shift dresses for little girls, but in Australia/UK, it’s a sweatshirt or a sweater. I like it.

Jumpers 4eva
Jumpers 4eva

also, Jam. People here get confused when you say jelly. It’s like they picture a peanut butter and petroleum jelly sandwich. Which is gross.

K – Kilometer.
“What the fuck is a mile?”
“I don’t know, what the fuck is a kilometer?”
“It’s one thousand meters.”
“Shut up.”

The metric system makes way more sense, everyone. But I still can’t measure in it.


L – Lift. I take a lift to the 19th floor. It makes me miss my futuristic elevator.

M – Mince. Ground meat is called “mince.” I grew up hearing “mince pie” in British context, and I always assumed it was something weird and British, like ground intestines with jam. But it’s just ground beef and gravy in a pastry shell. And it’s delicious.

I still call ground beef hamburger every now and then, and it confuses Joel. He’s decided that Americans have two categories for cow meat. For example, I asked him if he wanted to have steak fajitas for supper.
“Like strip steak.”
“Strips of beef, like stir fry?”
“Everything that comes off a cow to you Americans is steak. Unless it’s hamburger.”

Also, you can get a lamb+pork mince that makes bolognese 800% tastier. Sorry, vegetarians. But, on another fun note, the grass fed, humane slaughtered meat here is actually affordable, like only $2-3 more, unlike in the US, where it’s $10-12 more. So that’s cool.

N – “No worries.” I thought this was a phrase Outback Steakhouse made popular, but it’s pretty accurate for Australian people. From what I’ve experienced, they’re much more laid back and living for the moment than Americans. Less striving for status and social climbing, and more enjoying what you already have. It’s been an adjustment for me, but one I really needed.


O – Op Shop – Thrift stores are called Op Shops. Funny enough, they all smell the same as they do in the States. I guess old clothes and failed dreams smell the same no matter where you go.

Op shops are the best
Op shops are the best

P – Prawn. Shrimp! I thought a prawn was a giant shrimp, but it’s just a regular shrimp. And they’re everywhere here – the advantage of living so close to the ocean.

Mmmm, eyeballs.
Mmmm, eyeballs.

R – Rubbish. Trash is no longer trash, it’s rubbish. Whenever I say it in my mind, I say it with a clipped British accent. I can’t help it. /fancy

And sneakers are called “runners.” Which makes more sense, as I can’t sneak around in my sneakers. They squeak.

S – Scroll. It’s a cinnamon scroll, not a cinnamon bun. And they aren’t limited to just cinnamon. There are endless combinations. I walk past a stand that sells Banana – Nutella and Cookies -n- Cream scrolls. The one time I had money and time to stop for one, they were sold out. I will get there one day. And it’ll be life changing.


Oh, and swim suits are called “swimmers.” I like it.

T – Tomato. Tin. Trolley. Thongs. When my friend Odie was living in Sydney, he started saying to-mah-to, and I made so much fun of him for it. Now I say it regularly. I even say “Tin tomato” which is “can of tomatoes.” Resistance is futile.

Also, people push trolleys through the store. And they wear thongs on their feet, and a G-String as underwear. “My thong broke on the beach!” means your flip flop broke. It doesn’t mean your bottom swimmers broke. Even though Speedos for men are unfortunately popular here.

U – Uni. When you go off to university, you head to “uni.” No one really says college. And from what I’ve heard, the “crazy American college experience” doesn’t happen here. No solo cups? Denied!

Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions
Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions

V – Vegemite. This yeast based spice paste used to make me vomit. The first time I tried it, I spit it out and swore it off for good. Even the smell of it turned me off.

However. Joel made a toasted English muffin with butter and Vegemite, and it was actually the perfect savory breakfast. And it’s a really crucial hangover snack. It’s all in how it’s prepared: 2 parts butter to 1 part vegemite, on any toasted bread. This also supports my principal that butter makes everything better.

vegemite-big-night-small-68721W – Washing. Whether it’s dishes or laundry, we call it “washing” here. For example, I do the washing (laundry) on Sundays. And we do the washing after every meal.

Also, a windshield is called a wind screen, which I don’t get. It’s glass, not a screen. Point – America.

X – XXXX beer. The first time I saw an ad for XXXX beer, I thought it was an ad for a porno. Turns out it’s Queensland’s most popular beer.

Weirdest porno ever.
Weirdest porno ever.

Y – Yobbo (yah-bo). Like we have rednecks and white trash, Australia has Bogans and yobbos. Like a bogan to a lesser degree. Maybe less meth.


Z – Zed. X, Y, Zed, not X, Y, Z. Apparently, Zed is not dead. He’s been living at the end of the alphabet.

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

*for the record, the only word that makes me feel douchey is “mobile.” As in, my “mo-bile phone”. I can’t say it. It comes of like mo-bille or moe-bal every time. Oneathesedays.

One thought on “My Australian Alphabet

  1. “F – Footpath. Otherwise known as a sidewalk. And everyone walks on the left. Same with escalators, where people walk to the left and stand to the right. It’s taken a long time to relax my Washington DC instincts when I’m on the escalator, where you will be mowed down by commuters if you’re standing on the right.” You got this one wrong. In the metro, you walk on the left and stand on the right. No matter if you are carrying a baby or not! Love you!!!

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