Even after nearly three years in Australia, I seem to learn something new every day, especially about the way Australians speak. Like, did you know that pajamas are spelled with a “y”? It’s “pyjamas” here. Weird. And I only discovered that the other day in Target when I had to go to the kids section to get baby gifts for breeders. There it was at the end of the aisle: “PYJAMAS”. WTF? And buoy is pronounced like boy. “Watch out for that buoy in the water there” could get really confusing. Next thing you know some innocent American rips off his shirt and dives into shark-infested water to save the non-existent drowning boy only because some Australian shouted out about a buoy. I at least hope that he who rips off his shirt to save a drowning child is hot.
In addition to spelling and pronunciation, there is a very long list of things that have different meanings. As you know, thongs are footwear in Australia but slutwear in the US. And a fanny means something very different in the two countries, which is why I imagine any Aussie who has ever watched The Nanny mutes the opening credits. Going a step further, there are actually things that mean the EXACT OPPOSITE in Australia of what they do in the United States. And today, I’ll give you two examples.
1. Lucked out.
I always say “luck out” or “lucked out”, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned that it means the exact opposite of what I thought it means here in Australia. The dictionary defines the expression “luck out” as follows: “to have an instance or run of exceptionally good luck.” And every American reading this is like “well, yeah.”
But not in Oz. To “luck out” here means “to run out of luck.”
So, when the forecast calls for thunderstorms all weekend and it ends up being sunny and beautiful and you tell someone at work on Monday that we really lucked out with the weather, they look at you funny and think you’re on crack. Because to them, they didn’t luck out. Now, if the forecast looks sunny and great but then it ends up pissing down rain from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, an Australian will say that we really lucked out with the weather. And I stand there for a minute and process that and then slowly nod in agreement after suppressing the little American voice in my head that keeps saying “Is this bitch for real?”
Now I know what it means to say “luck out” to my American mates here and I know what it means to say “luck out” to my Australian mates here but what the hell do you say to a mixed group of Americans and Australians? And what do you say to an Australian who has lived in America and knows what “lucked out” means over there and fully expects you to use the phrase in the American sense but then you use it in the Australian sense and they look at you funny and then you realize that they know it works both ways. And what if they know that you know it works both ways and you know that they also know it works both ways and then you have to clarify which way it means every single time which just takes so much longer.
From here on out, I’m just going to take the easy route and shut the fuck up whenever something good or bad happens.
A big round of applause for the forces of nature finally finding a way to keep me quiet. Now moving on.
In the US, homely is generally a bad thing. For example: “Oh. My. God. Becky. Look at that unfortunate creature over there. She looks like a total wildebeest. With braces. And that pastel pink Mickey Mouse sweater she is wearing: tragic. She’s just so… homely!”
But in Australia, it’s very different. For example: “Oh Marjorie, this meal was delicious – and I just love the décor in your dining room. How homely!”
Australians use “homely” as Americans generally would use the word “homey” – it feels like home. In the dictionary, this can best be described as follows:
Homely in the United States: “lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive.”
Homely in Australia: “proper or suited to the home or to ordinary domestic life; plain; unpretentious.”
Taking directly from Dictionary.com: “In the United States, homely usually suggests absence of natural beauty.” But in Australia, “the word suggests a wholesome simplicity without artificial refinement or elegance; since it characterizes that which is comfortable and attractive, it is equivalent to homey.”
To demonstrate further:
Homely in Australia: A lovely cottage with tasteful, comfortable, inviting décor.
Homely in America: A run-down shack with a leaky roof and tacky, faded wallpaper.
Homely in Australia: The girl next door. For example: Taylor Swift without too much make up – warm, unpretentious, and inviting.
Homely in America: Wildebeest lady. For example: Maggie Gallagher – bigot.
And all the Americans agree: what a homely bitch.