Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That Whore Chrissie

I know I’ve already written about spelling and diction in previous blog entries, but something today at work has prompted me to write yet another blog about how Aussies speak.  Or, rather, how Aussies speak funny.

I randomly met an Australian speech pathologist a few months ago and she mentioned that it’s a bit more difficult for people to learn how to speak properly in Australia than it is to learn how to speak properly in the United States, Canada, or even England.  When it comes to pronunciation, vowel sounds are often shortened, whole syllables dropped, or inflection changed.  To say it bluntly, Australians are notoriously lazy speakers.  They’re like the Mexicans of the language world.

Just kidding!  Mexicans aren’t lazy.  That’s just me perpetuating stereotypes again.

Anyway, I didn’t notice this too much at first, but as I go along, it’s definitely catching my attention more and more.  What really gets me are the dropping of syllables – or dropping of whole words really.  Geography is a perfect example:  when referring to Surfers Paradise, Australians only say “Surfers”.  Same goes for Byron Bay – you only need “Byron”.  Coffs Harbours is simply “Coffs” and Alice Springs is just plain “Alice” – like the whole city represents the maid or nanny or whatever that lady was on the Brady Bunch.

Your locale only has one word in its name?  How do you shorten that?  It’s simple!  Use the diminutive so it sounds endearing and it’s shorter!  For example, Tasmania becomes “Tassie” (pronounced “Tazzie” – because they hate using the letter “z” here).  “But, Phill, my city only has two syllables to begin with.  How on Earth can I shorten that?”

No worries, outsiders!  The Australians have an answer:  change the last syllable to make it diminutive and shorten the vowel sound on it.  Brisbane becomes “Brissie” and the Gold Coast becomes “Goldie”.  Who needs two whole syllables when you can have… one syllable and then a different syllable?


Need more examples?  Darlinghurst becomes “Darlo” and Paddington becomes “Paddo” and Wagga Wagga becomes “Wagga” – because who needs that second wagga anyway?

(As an aside, “Wagga Wagga” is a real place.  “Wagga” means crow or something in an Aboriginal language, and they pluralize it by saying it twice, therefore “Wagga Wagga” means more than one crow.  And since there are multiple crows there, I won’t be going, because I hate birds.)

It’s not just geographical place names that get shortened:  anything can be shortened if you put your mind to it!  Registration (as in car registration) is far too long of a word for Australian English.  Let’s just call it “rego”.  Afternoon’s three syllables getting you down by late morning?  Just say “arvo” instead!  Because getting arvo out of afternoon makes complete sense seeing as both have the letter “v”.

Oh wait.

Americans have four syllables so let’s just call them “Yanks”.  And Brits?  We’ll call them “Poms” because maybe the vowel sound is shorter?  I don’t know.  Australia’s national soccer team is known as the Roos – short for Socceroos.  And if you need to buy groceries, head on over to Woolies – or Woolworth’s as the sign says.  An “esky” is a cooler or ice chest (this I learned fairly recently) and they call it that because it’s cold like an Eskimo.  Seriously.  Esky is like Xerox or Kleenex or Google or Band-Aid in that it’s a brand name (proper noun) that has become synonymous with the item (common noun).  But what gets me is this:  the brand isn’t “Eskimo” – it’s “Esky”.  The creator got lazy with the language even before his product hit the shelf.  “Eskimo seems like such a long name for a cooler.  Let’s just call it Esky.”  Ugh.

But today – today was the last straw.  My boss was on the phone with a client and I heard this come out of his mouth:

“Did you have a nice Chrissie?”

Are you kidding me?  You shorten Christmas too?   Because Christmas is just too long to say I suppose.  There’s something about the -mas suffix that makes Christmas seem like seven syllables instead of two.  (Ok, no there’s not.  This is bullshit.)

Chrissie should not be short for Christmas.  Chrissie is a name for a woman – and more specifically – it sounds like a name for a woman who makes her living dancing naked around a stripper pole in front of a bunch of gross, horny, old perverts or Japanese businessmen.   Or – if not a stripper – then a full-fledged whore.  Seriously.  Chrissie is a whore’s name and now it sounds like Christmas is just some big whore.  Isn't it supposed to be about Mary being a virgin and all?  This is defeating the purpose.  “Did you have a nice Chrissie?”  Why, yes, she was delightful and only cost $50 per hour.  It's times like that I'm extra thankful that I'm a big Jew.

“And did you get any good pressies?”

For fuck’s sake!  Pressies?!?!?  (pronounced “prezzies” of course)  Pressies sounds like something you say to a three year-old.  And I seriously doubt the broker on the phone was a three year-old, because if a three year-old could do my job I’d say fuck it and play with building blocks all day instead.

Australians don’t seem to care or even notice that they are lazy with the language.  But the moment I say “whatev” or “ridick” (short for ridiculous) they stare at me like I’m from outer space.  Ugh.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Other Palm Beach

The day after our Wollongong adventure, John and I still had possession of our rental car.  So we decided to make the most out of it by heading all the way to Palm Beach!  That’s right!  A 10,000 mile adventure!  We’ll get to go shopping at CityPlace and ogle Donald Trump’s massive beachside mansion!  I hear Oprah and Tom Selleck have homes on Palm Beach too!  Woohoo!

Oh wait.

No, no.  Not Palm Beach, Florida.  Sorry.  The other Palm Beach.  Just like with London and Paris and Athens:  there is more than one Palm Beach in the world.

Palm Beach, New South Wales, is located approximately one hour north of Sydney.  It sits on the very tip of a narrow peninsula that separates the Pacific Ocean from Broken Bay.  And to all you Americans and Canadians reading this right now:  Be jealous.

Be very jealous.

It’s winter in North America and you all are sitting inside drinking hot cocoa by the fireplace… because you know that the moment you step outside will be the moment your nose and ears automatically turn blue and your testicles shrivel up and take cover as close to your body as they possibly can.  And your car is frozen in the driveway.  And me?  I’m here:

We went to Palm Beach on a Monday and it was virtually empty.  There was minimal traffic getting up there (it’s a long and somewhat winding drive up the peninsula) and the cafĂ© we ate at featured only one other table of patrons.  No pesky tourists.  No children screaming or laughing heinously.  Just the waves and the beach all to myself.

And John too, of course.  I laid my towel out and went straight for the water.  I splashed around like a little kid while John read his book up on the beach under a nice tree.  He was sick of the sun.  These Seattle people just can’t handle it.

And the best part?  The best part was… there weren’t really any birds!  Usually, Sydney beaches are plagued by those little shit seagulls.  But not Palm Beach.  Maybe they stayed away because there weren’t enough beach-goers out to feed them on a Monday, but my housemate conjectured that they probably are exterminated regularly because Palm Beach is one of the filming locations for Home and Away – one of Australia’s biggest soap operas.  We can’t have those pesky seagulls flying into shots and pooping on actors’ heads mid-scene and stealing French fries from that guy behind the camera.  Hellz no!

Whatever the reason, the point is there weren’t any birds and it was the absolute best beach ever.  Seriously.  (But I sort of hope that Channel 7 kills the seagulls because that would just be awesome and I would implore them to start filming scenes at Bondi as well.  And Coogee.  And Manly.  And Tamarama.  And all around Circular Quay.  And, Channel 7, while you’re at it, can you get rid of all the pigeons on Bourke Street?  Thanks!)

So yeah.  The whole point of this blog is to make you jealous that we’ve got Palm Beach and you’ve got blizzards and snow chains and bunches of cars and buses sliding down iced-over hills in Seattle or Washington or Chicago or New York or Toronto or wherever you may reside.

Oh, wait.  That’s mean.  Sorry!  The whole point of the blog is to inform you that there is more than one Palm Beach in the world.  In fact, there are seven.  In addition to Palm Beach, Florida and Palm Beach, New South Wales, there is also another Palm Beach in Australia – up in Queensland – and Palm Beaches in Aruba, South Africa, and the French Riviera.  That makes six.  And the seventh?

It’s in Illinois.  And that’s fucking ridiculous.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gong

Here’s a little recipe for you:

Take 1 part bogans (Australian rednecks), 1 part blue collar workers, and 1 part university students.  Mix them all together, set them down next to some gorgeous beaches, and garnish with a big ass Buddhist temple.  What do you get?

The Gong!

Actually, it’s Wollongong, but calling it “The Gong” is way more fun, so let’s do that.  Wollongong – with a metropolitan population of around 280,000 – is the ninth largest city in Australia.  It sits an hour and a half south of Sydney and is one of Australia’s major ports.  It’s also a hub for fishing, steelworks, and mining.  My Canadian mate Jeremy was studying abroad for a year at the university in Wollongong.  I kept saying that I’d go visit before he left, and seeing as he was leaving at the very beginning of December and it was the end of November and I still hadn’t gone, I figured I’d better get my butt in gear and head down there.  John and I planned on renting a car for a few days when he was in town from Seattle, so I thought to myself that it would be the perfect time.

So, we woke up early, hopped in our rental car, and headed down to see The Gong Show.  First stop:  Nan-Tien Temple!

The temple grounds were serene – and so well-manicured.  It was gorgeous.  It’s one of the largest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere (but really, how many can there be?) and is one of Wollongong’s largest tourist attractions.  I had never been to a Buddhist temple before, and I think this is a good preview of what I should expect when I travel China and Mongolia one day.

Why they would build this giant temple in Wollongong of all places befuddles me, but I’m sure they have their reasons.  Also, John, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave your fish in the car.  Thanks.

Next stop:  into the city for some beach time!  Jeremy – along with our mates David and Elcid who were also down visiting from Sydney – and a bunch of Jeremy’s lady friends – headed down to the beach.  It was a gorgeous beach – nice sand, nice waves, and a decent amount of topless hunky eye candy.  I was pleased.

The water just looked so inviting that I had to go in for a little swim – a first for me in Australia.  Luckily, I survived without getting eaten by a shark or stung by a jellyfish or getting pulled out to sea by a lethal rip current.  Woohoo!  Did I mention there were skydivers?  Fun.

Afterward, we were hungry (we may have forgotten to eat all day…) so Jeremy wandered with us down to the main drag in Wollongong.  It was there that reality set in.  It was around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and the main drag in a city of over a quarter-million people was… completely dead.  Dead.  Everything was closed.  Seriously.  Everything.

Jeremy had a few lunch places in mind.  They were all closed.  I had read about a good brewpub on the beach, so we headed back in that direction.  They had a patio with a great view!  But… they weren’t serving food any more.  We had missed it.  In my twenty-seven years of existence, I had managed to tactfully stay away from small town America, but I imagine this is what it must be like:  dead.  And starving.  And quiet.

So that’s why the Buddhists built their temple here.  So eerily peaceful.

We wandered back to the main drag and ended up eating at virtually the only open restaurant:  Oporto – a nationwide fast food chain that is sort of like Chick-fil-a but with a Portuguese flair and a disappointing lack of waffle fries and sweet tea.  Still, it was better than McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks.

Then, we bid Jeremy adieu and headed back to Sydney via a scenic coastal route.  We made a brief stop at the Sea Cliff Bridge.  The bridge, which opened in 2005, replaced an earlier road that was subject to frequent rock falls.  The bridge is unique in that it runs parallel to the shore – one of only seven in the world to do so (according to Wikipedia).

They even filmed a Ferrari commercial there and showed it internationally.  So I guess the bridge is pretty famous now.

Or not.

I will admit that it was pretty neat, but in all honesty, I was expecting a bit more.   One interesting thing:  the railings were covered in locks that people had engraved – mostly for weddings – but a few had some other various commemorations on them.  I think I’ll go back one day with a lock and attach it to one of the posts.  Obviously, it won’t commemorate my wedding – largely because I’m not married and don’t plan on it anytime soon – but I’ll have to think of something clever and moderately offensive to engrave on my bridge lock.  Something like “This lock touched Oprah's bare bottom” or “Those who read this lock will have an eternity of pain” or anything involving feminists or those pesky Lithuanians.  I don’t know.  Something witty.  Suggestions?


Monday, December 13, 2010

All About John

“The only things certain in life are death and taxes…” and a blog post about any friend who comes to visit me.  If you drop $1,000+ to come see little old Phill in his land far away, then a blog post is the least I can do.  That and seriously run you ragged.

And run ragged is just what I did to good old John.  John, being one of my top straights from Seattle, got the star treatment here in Sydney.  Oh, and yes, I rank my straights.  It gives them something to aspire to.  Anyway, John was here for 12 days and he left completely exhausted and sick of the sun.

My work here is done.

John had the true blue Aussie experience.  He drank Aussie beer and met Aussie people.  He ate Aussie food and had to ask what certain words meant.  He even killed a giant spider that we found in the kitchen sink when we got home from the bar at 2 o'clock one morning.  That's the real Aussie experience right there.

Now, of course, I’m a working man, and I have to bring home the bacon, even though it’s not kosher.  So I had to let John run around Sydney on his own for a few days.  I gave him an itinerary and a map and some bus passes and he was off like a prom dress.  I sent him to the Botanical Gardens and Government House and the Sydney Opera House (duh!) and the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks and Taronga Zoo and Sydney Tower and the Queen Victoria Building… and one day I even sent him on a two-hour train ride up to the Blue Mountains for some hiking.  All of that, of course, was accomplished on the three days I worked.

When I was off work, we did heaps more:  we walked, we ferried, we conquered.  We did the Bondi to Coogee Walk, Centennial Park, Manly, and drove all the way down to Wollongong and the Sea Cliff Bridge and Royal National Park and all the way up to Palm Beach and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  We did trivia and we had beer, we did dinner at the Wharf Bar and we had beer, we did dinner at Una’s and we had beer, we had dinner at Trinity Bar and we had beer, we had dinner at Oporto but we didn’t have any beer there because they are a fast food establishment and they don’t serve beer.  But there was plenty of beer at all other meals.  John likes beer.  I like beer.

Together we like a lot of beer.

We went to the Shady Pines Saloon – my favorite country & western bar in Sydney (probably the only country & western bar in Sydney) – and we visited the cute baristas – not once but twice.  We spent a whole day doing Thanksgiving (our third Thanksgiving together!) and we went to the Westfield Bondi to buy ingredients and we cooked (well, I mostly cooked… John grated cheese, but I’m a control freak so that was my decision) and we dined and drank copious amounts of alcohol at our multinational Thanksgiving dinner at Karen & Elsbeth’s apartment.  And on top of all of that, John flew up to Cairns to check out the Great Barrier Reef for three days.  So yeah, all of that other crap was squeezed into just 9 days.  Not 12.  Remember in the first paragraph when I said I ran John ragged?  That was an understatement.  I should’ve said…

Completely ragged.

Of course, this was a big 12 days, and several more posts will come out of it, including a post on The Gong and a post about the beach that will make you jealous and a whole post devoted to chocolate, because John brought me Theo Chocolate from Seattle and I don’t blog about food enough.

Or do I?

But those posts will follow later this month.  For now, I leave you with pictures of me and my straight.

This was taken somewhere between Wollongong and Royal National Park.  In case you’re wondering, I’m the one on the right.  I look short, but I’m really about average.  John is freakishly tall.

A nice jolly woman took this for us at West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  Haha, I said head…

Friday, December 3, 2010


Stop what you’re doing right now and open up the Google homepage.  Come on, do it… Now do an image search for “1980’s porn star”.  Seriously.  Do it.

I’m waiting.

Ok, now that you’ve searched, examine the results closely.  Aside from all of the men being fairly ugly and creepy looking, what else do nearly all of them have in common?

Come on, you can guess…

Ok, fine.  It’s a mustache.  1980’s porn stars almost always have a mustache.  Well, not all 1980’s porn stars.  Just the males.

Now, come to Australia during the month of November and look around… what do so many men have in common?

Oh, that’s right.  Mustaches!  Australia during the month of November is just like a 1980’s porno flick… except that people aren’t having sex for you to watch (well, at least not for me to watch) and ladies’ hair isn’t as big as it was back then.

November in Australia is called “Movember” - a month-long charity event where men raise money by growing a mustache for the entire month.  “Mo” is slang for mustache in Australia, so naturally, November was the obvious month for “Movember”.  “Mobruary” and “Mogust” don’t sound nearly as clever.  Participants start clean-shaven on November 1st and end on the 30th looking something like Ron Jeremy.  In researching this event on the interwebs, it appears that it is a fundraiser for men’s health issues – most notably prostate cancer and depression – but I didn’t actually hear that from anyone’s mouth, so I have a feeling that people do it for whatever charity they want nowadays.  And it’s incredible how many men do it:  a few of my friends, heaps of co-workers, and probably about one out of every 10 men that you pass on the street… all doing their part to help raise funds for my future prostate health.

Among those who participated:  the really hot guy at work.  It only took a few days for him to start looking ridiculous.  By the 9th or 10th of the month, I could no longer refer to him as the hot guy.  Just the memory of his heinous mustache has warped the view of him in my mind.  Not that he cares (he’s straight), but still.  Also participating:  the really sweet older guy at work.  He must be in his 60’s and always says “hi” to me and starts up little conversations with me when he sees me in the lunchroom or at the copier.  His hair is all gray and white, but his mustache grew in black, and let me tell you:  it was beyond porn star creepy.  Seriously, the nice older man all of a sudden turned into a sketchy porn star playing the role of the boss about to blackmail his secretary into doing some dirty, dirty deed.  Isn’t there a better way to raise money?  Like a relay or a march or something like we do in the States?

The whole month reminded me of the time in college when five friends and I decided to go rent an adult DVD to see what it was all about but we all had out-of-state drivers licenses so they wouldn’t let us rent so we ended up having to purchase one but porn is apparently really expensive so we ended up buying something from the VHS bargain bin for $5 and it was a 1980’s porn called “Hocus Poke Us” (not even shitting you) and it was full of women with big hair and men with CREEPY mustaches and some sort of storyline that they tried to pass off as a legitimate plot.  Living in Sydney in November was really similar to that.

I’m glad November is over.

God it’s hideous.