I'm not saying America does a stellar job of this (it doesn't), but at least a public school education includes grammar to the extent of differentiating a noun from, say, a verb. Australian Gen-Yers literally did not have grammar taught to them in schools. A handful picked up a handful of tips when they studied foreign languages (which, granted, is also how I fine-tuned a good bit of mine), but for a period of some years no one was actually taught any grammar in Australian schools.*
*Possibly this was only New South Wales and Victoria? My sources, I'll admit, are rather limited to these states.
So while I have been saving utterly all of my creative juices as completely as I can before unleashing a mighty gush November first (no, not "November one"!), Garry has been doing nothing but writing Punch articles. Check out his most recent (or, handy hint: if you want to be in the know and read things before they're so widely released -- just follow the link on the side of this blog!).
This could be a very long, very boring post detailing precisely all the punctuation differences between American and Australian English. However, I haven't yet compiled them, so suffice it to say: there are lots of differences. Trust me.
(Sit down. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Stay seated. Repeat -- the breath. No need to sit twice. Steady on. Ready there, folks?)
(Exhale.) So. Umm. Yeah. I have a confession. No, it's not about porn. (That'd be Steve Kryger's column, not mine.) Phew. But anyway. I. Um. Yeah, um I was thinking about doing that November writing thing ever since a friend mentioned it on the phone when I was home and I kind of brought it up slightly at my writers' group and they weren't super keen, but then GarryWith2Rs wrote this blogpost about it and I kind of sort of thought it might be fun to try so I stupidly mentioned it to my mother who thought it was fantastic and the best idea she'd ever heard and offered I could do it with her 70-year-old friend from church who wants to write a book about how much he loves Mondays which didn't quite do it for me somehow but evidently at some point I must have messaged Garry about maybe possibly kind of sort of thinking about it and and and I'm not quite sure what happened but now I'm signed up and supposed to write 50,000 words in November and what's more I told Garry he was going down so now it appears that I really have to do it or suffer an incredible loss of face but really what is face and how necessary is it to save in the big scheme of things really gosh I'd say that's practically pride but anyway I guess I'm doing it now and you as loyal blog readers get to bear (haha!) the brunt of it all because where else am I going to post things but here except possibly no where which is a rather enticing option when it comes down to it so I might do that too but yeah anyway I just wanted to give you a heads up that this is probably about what you can expect for the whole month of November (yay!) except of course 2000 words a day instead of whatever this is probably 300 or so so yay nearly 90% more regularly I knew you could hardly wait!
Reading Looking for Alibrandi I was reminded of a slur I've heard discussed slightly, but don't actually know much more than wikipedia does about: wog. The term in the book referred to Australians of an Italian background, though I think it can be used a bit more broadly. It's derogatory when used by an outsider, though acceptable, as are other such names, when used by a member of the group it describes.
Ha! You can't do it! That's the thing -- on American beaches (pictured above) there are no men in Speedos! I've been meaning to save up a bunch of beach ideas and blog about them in one fell swoop, but this one just can't wait any longer: American men wear beach attire that stretches to the knees, or possibly slightly above. Anything less is looked on something shocking, but today (in Australia) -- anything goes! It's a wonder the women haven't all gone blind!
I can understand slightly in the instance of, say, Olympic swimmers that men may choose something skimpy, but as for the rest ... knee-length is suitable.
I remember expressing a similar sentiment at a seminary in England only to have a concerned seminarian turn to me and respond, "Oh, I'm sorry; does that cause you to stumble?" At which point I doubled over and tried desperately to explain that, no, no, really, it was quite the reverse.
And I will also quite freely admit that there are many women who should never be seen in a bikini, or two piece, or whatever other ensemble they've concocted. But yes, I have a double standard and I'm quite happy with it: no man should be seen sporting a Speedo in public.
So the other night at my writers' group we spent entirely longer than most groups of people (aside from perhaps my co-workers, who all happen to be English teachers) discussing whether or not "addicting" was a word. Evidently both us of Americans in the group had used the word entirely independently of each other with the space of an hour (I missed the first mention, but brought about the second), and the Australians were convinced it wasn't a word and that the appropriate adjective was "addictive." After the necessary googling (now there's a non-word for you), we determined that it's probably not actually in the OED, but that even highly literate North Americans use it without any linguistic qualms. Or at least they didn't use to ...
More often than American addresses, Australian addresses are likely to actually follow some semblance of order -- and not go ridiculously higher than the actual number of houses on a street. So, while many Americans would have a four digit house number, many Australians would have a one, two or three digit house number. Five digits are virtually unheard of.
I was told I'd cry and fall in love in Looking for Alibrandi. Honestly, I didn't shed a tear, though I did develop a slight crush. Literary boys are so brazen it's hard not to. But clearly there's a bit more going on in it than teen flings. Well, a little bit at least.
Looking for Alibrandi is one of those standard teen identity books critics love to recommend because they deal with adult issues such as condoms. And while the issues in and of themselves are deep enough, it screams teen. Not exactly in a bad way, but in a you-definitely-know-the-target-market kind of way.
I liked it, though, I really did. It's fast and fun for the most part, and the best part is the narrator's voice. She's concise and punchy and you don't feel cheated for having spent a few hours with her. In fact, you begin to wish you were a bit more punchy, too.
Her self discovery's both melodramatic and oddly anticlimactic (you feel like the author, given a few years of college English, would be distraught and fervently rework the actual, highly foreshadowed ending), though I'm guessing most teens would be less critical.
It's a book that if it hits you at the right time in the right place I imagine will stay with you forever, but stumbling upon it fifteen years late will leave you dry eyed and slightly cynical. Though thankfully not heartbroken.
Australian license plates cycle through the alphabet. I really don't understand how this works, but my Australian friends seem to have an intrinsic idea of what letters are due to come out next, and in which state. Right now nearly everyone in NSW has a license plate starting with either an A or a B, which is all well and good until you go to play the "let's make an acronym out of the letters" game in the car and find that all your sentences start with either "aunts" or "boys." And really, some go downhill drastically fast from that B ...
Australian public holidays vary based on state. So, while New South Wales had Labour Day on Monday, October 4, other states didn't. Not that I'm complaining, let the record stand: I'd take that day again any day!
Actually what they call it, can you believe it? I heard someone refer to it and thought it was either a less-than-hysterical joke or someone trying to come up with the right word on the spur of the moment and, while not exactly failing, also not exactly landing it just right. Turns out I was wrong: Australians regularly (semi-regularly?) refer to desiccated coconut.
Perhaps I should have mentioned this sooner as they're nearly over now, but the Commonwealth Games are currently going on. They're right along the lines of the Olympics, only with only the Commonwealth countries (and their friends? friends of friends? anyone England hasn't gone to war with? not exactly sure, but we never get an invite).
Incidentally, have I mentioned that what we refer to as the Revolutionary War the Commonwealth countries (including Australia) refer to as The American War of Independence? Now I have. Possibly twice.
I sacrificed myself tonight for the sake of the blog: I ate the last two lamingtons. In retrospect, I'm not exactly sure why I felt I the blog needed this, but ten minutes ago it certainly did.
Lamingtons are classic Australian cuisine -- white cake covered in chocolate covered in coconut. The cake's on the dry side, as historically these rations were sent to troops at war. The chocolate kept them reasonably fresh and they restore morale to this day. Whether or not you're a soldier, come to think of it.
So I have it on good authority from an anonymous source that, while in earlier generations male babies were circumcised as a matter of course, that is no longer the case today and the majority of males gen Y and following would not be circumcised.
Leave you to do your own research if you don't believe me.
On a happier note -- I can announce that I am now the proud possessor a brand new library card! It came from Stanton Library, which is infinitely better than a certain other library that happens to be located in the Custom House.
For instance, they actually had the book I wanted!! And, to add insult to Another Library's injury, they had two copies!! No waiting, no holds, no transfers -- a book! In stock!! Will wonders never cease!
Second, they let me join for free!! Granted, I was prepared and came with my most recent bank statement (I currently carry it as a matter of course), but they happily accepted it and let me get a card. Hooray!
Third, they have a normal system of shelving. All the fiction, for instance, is in (get this) the same room. Alphabetically!
And finally, the lady helping me was (hold on to your seats) nice! She not only complimented my ring, but also said I was "ladylike" and "affable." Would I could say the same for certain other librarians!
So this is one of those cultural observations that you don't get on a cursory glance at a country. It's a bit morbid, so maybe skip this one if you're having a bad day, okay?
I was shocked to learn that at least two of my Australian friends over the age of, say, 27, had never seen a dead body. Although I've only seen them in caskets, I've seen several at various funerals. Upon pressing further, I learned that Australian funerals rarely include a body or a casket as most Australians nowadays are cremated.
Americans usually have a viewing (open casket) for about 4 hours (a "drop in when you can" sort of event) followed either that day or the next by a funeral service (closed casket in front of church). Immediately after the funeral, the pallbearers take the casket to the hearse and the family and close friends then proceed to the cemetery. (In a motorcade of usually purple-flagged cars with their hazards on.)
Thus, while I would find it difficult to grieve without a body, my Australian friends would find it strange to see one.