Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cultural Differences

When I was a young child, many of the books in Australia were from Britain. The publishers had divided up the world as to who could sell books where, and Australia was under the control of the UK, not the US. So I found myself highly puzzled that the little heroine would wear an anorak (a what?), to the seaside (where?), and paddle in rock pools. To me the idea of wearing a coat in summer was unheard of. We went to the beach, and all we needed was a sunhat. And we swam—not paddled—in surf, not rock pools.
Of course the publishers still have divided the world up between them, but Australians got tired of popular book titles being released here six months after they were released overseas, and at hugely inflated prices as well. We now order whatever we want online and often get free shipping as well. A fact booksellers are becoming more and more aware of. In response, one very popular recent release went live worldwide at 9am on a certain date, and because where I live is sixteen hours ahead of the US East Coast, I’d finished reading the book before they could even get their copy!
Australians watch a lot of US and UK TV, so nowadays kids know a jersey (UK) or sweater (US) is actually a jumper, that a portmanteau is a suitcase, a lorry (UK) or 18-wheeler (US) is a B-double, and that flip-flops are thongs (plural) and go on your feet, not a thong (singular) which is underwear.

Although each time I visit the US someone manages to totally confuse me with a word I’ve never heard before. However, I did have to teach them what budgie smugglers were.
What words from other countries make you laugh, or have non-plussed you?

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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