Common language

It has been said that Britain and the USA are ‘Two countries divided by a common language’ (a saying whose origin causes heated arguments and makes people Wilde, for Shaw).

Let’s make that three, to include Australia, with its close attachment to the British version of English (but not exclusively). There are no regional differences in Australian pronunciation, except for my adopted home State of South Australia, where, irrespective of class, we tend to ape the English upper-class pronunciation of words like dance (we say darnce) and plant (we say plarnt) etc. The UK has more dialects (and therefore differences in pronunciation) than there are positions in the Karma Sutra and the US has its Southern, Texan, Boston, hillbilly etc variations of its home tongue.

I won’t bother with differences in spelling; both writer and reader would lose the will to live at that point.

These limited lists have been gleaned from my frequent visits to the US in a past life and the almost complete domination of US media and Hollywood in the lives of Australians, to the point that our grandchildren now think a soft drink is a soda. Any attempt at correction is met with ‘OK boomer’.

  1. Pronunciation

So (which seems to have somehow become the default word at the beginning of any statement) for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to make a general divide between Auslish and USlish (A and U for abbreviation), most of which come about via placing a different empharsis on the same sylabble.

(I am unschooled in phonetics so please bear with my crude approximations below.)

For example, in the kitchen:

A – Ta-mart-o    U – Toe-mate-o                (ditto with potato)

A – Herbs             U – Erbs

A – O (as in octopus)- rer-gar-no                 U – O (as in octopus)-regga-no

A – Bazzil (as in Fawlty)  U – Bazel

A – Bar-nar-na   U – Bar-nanna

Other terms

A – Da-fence      U – Dee-fence

A – A dress          U – Add-ress

A – Zed                 U – Zee


  1. Words

A – Lift                  U – Elevator

A – Nappy           U – Diaper

A – Rear storage in car = boot     U = trunk

A – Bonnet (car)                U – Hood

A – Autumn        U – Fall

A – Bum = backside         U = vagrant

A – Dummy         U – Pacifier

A – Footpath      U -Sidewalk

A – Ground floor               U – First floor

A – Tap                 U – Faucet

A – Toilet             U – Bathroom

A – Jumper         U – Sweater

A – Biscuits          U – Cookies

A – Capsicum     U – Bell pepper

A – Chook (as in book)   U – Chicken

A – Jam                 U – Jelly

A – Maths            U – Math

A – Mum              U – Mom

A – Dad                 U – Pop


Adults only section

A – Rubber          U – Eraser

A – Fanny = female genital area                 U = backside

A – Thong = light rubber footwear            U – Skimpy underwear



13 thoughts on “Common language

  1. Doug, I respectfully submit A/NZ = Rar ther U = Rather as in I’d rather not say it like that, or Dan Rather.
    PS- I spent six childhood years in the bosom of Adelaide. I still wake at night… nostalgia or nightmares? I leave you to your conclusions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Point taken on ‘rather’. Your confessions of years in Adelaide’s bosom (and possibly other regions of her anatomy) make me loath to add NZ to A. I have no intention of throwing in my chups with you lot, ay bro. You can’t even count to 10 without bringing up sex. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Henry Higgins! That’s quite a list! You’re right about most of these items. Might I respectfully point out that there’s *some* regional differences in America (USlish)? The biggest I’ve heard is Southern versus The Rest. We’ve also some lingering Rural of small-town folk ( “pillow” and “milk” become ” pa [as in apple]-loh ” and “ma [another apple]lk” ). Most differences are slight enough that I took a free online quiz once that placed me all over the map.

    As to your list, my current knowledge includes the following corrections:
    De-fence/dee-fence = depends on context (as does “depend,” come to think of it),
    we tend to call people living on the street “homeless” or “bum,” first floor/ ground floor is based on the builder’s or owner’s preference -I’ve heard both, jam and jelly = the substance made from fruit bits is “jam” and that made from fruit juice is “jelly,” I’ve always called my father “Dad,” rubber/eraser = since you slipped that into the ‘adults only’ section I must assume you mean “prophylactics” -and our polite word for that is “protection” or ” condom” (the impolite terms are many!), and the term I allow my children to use for one’s backside or rear is “bottom” -although “butt” is used by most and “a**” by most who think swearing isn’t a big deal,

    Liked by 1 person

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