Big Question Marks

Thursday, October 29, 2009

20 Australian-isms we miss (and a few we don't)

The other day, I was flipping through my thesaurus-- not that I flip through my thesaurus as a pastime or anything, that would be nerdy!-- for another word for "grow" and, well, I stumbled upon "grouse". "Growwwwwse!" A little voice in my head chimes, with an Aussie accent. Unfortunately, my thesaurus didn't list the Aussie slang meaning of "grouse", which we only ever heard in Melbourne and was a favourite word of ours while living over there. While "grouse" here in Canada refers to a funny-looking bird, or can mean 'to complain'; in Melbourne, it meant "excellent". Here are some other Aussie-isms we're sad to have left behind (but still secretly use at home):

Heaps: Meaning 'lots', or 'very'. As in, "There were heaps of people at the game." Or "Yeah, it's heaps good."

Bogan: Another one we heard lots (heaps) of times in Melbourne, describing an 'unsophisticated person', sort of the Aussie equivalent to 'trailer trash'. "That style is really bogan."

Top shelf: The best. Like, "Megan is top shelf."

Fair dinkum: This was once defined to us by a teenage girl working at the IGA, home of 'Fair Dinkum Prices' as, "It's like saying, 'bloody oath'." [insert blank looks from grocery-shopping Canadians.] "Or like, 'True', or 'For real'. Uhhh, only old people say this." Maybe that's why it's so much fun to say.

Stickybeak: Nosy person. "My, that Bessie is a stickybeak!"

Good on ya!: A great way to say "Well done!" We still use this one a lot.

Champers: Champagne (though not the true-blue French kind, more like sparkling wine). As in, "I can't wait to have champers at the Melbourne Cup!"

On the piss: Drunk. As in, "I got on the piss last night."

Belly full of piss: Hung over. While we first worked in Port Douglas as housekeepers, we were appalled to learn this was a perfectly good excuse not to come into work on a Saturday. "Where's Amy?" the boss asked. "Oh, she's got a belly full of piss," said Amy's partner-in-crime, Anneliese. "Ahhhh," said the boss. "So hopefully she'll be in tomorrow then?"

Taking the piss: Making fun of someone (or 'ripping on someone'). i.e . 'Andy fell down the stairs on the way into the pub last night, and everyone spent the entire night taking the piss out of him.'

Bottle shop: The place where you buy booze. Also sometimes just called 'the Bottle-O', though this is the name of one of the many bottle shop chains around. It's so confusing to get back to the highly specific--and separate-- Beer Store and LCBO. Not that we ever really grasped the drive-thru bottle shop concept (what's so wrong with just shutting off the car and walking into a shop?).

Furphy: A rumour. As in, "That bloke's telling a furphy!" Here's a funny little bit of history on the furphy.

The Bush: The countryside, or anywhere outside the city. As in, "He had a house in the bush."

Dunny: Outhouse, outdoor toilet. We were privileged to have one of our own for a few weeks-- complete with gargantuan spiders inside-- while living "in the bush".

Bunyip: 'Mythical bush spirit' is how our Lonely Planet defines it. We were always hoping to meet one.

Flat out: Very busy or fast. To quote one of our managers at the bank: "I was flat out like a lizard drinking!" Hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with lizards being kind of low to the ground.

Hoon: A hooligan, a punk; or more specifically, someone who makes a sport out of street racing. I was tickled pink whenever one of my news stories received a headline like "Local hoons out in full force Saturday night" when writing for the Port Douglas newspaper. Also can be used as a verb to describe cruising in a vehicle: "I'm bored. Let's go for a hoon." Street racing is actually getting to be a huge problem in Oz, and governments are implementing 'Anti-hoon legislation' as we speak. Too bad the word is so much fun!

Ute: A vehicle that's half pick-up truck, half car. Short for 'utility vehicle', the ute is everywhere in rural Australia (including in the hands of hoons), unfortunately minus the kitsch factor its American cousin, the El Camino, has.

Knackered: Tired. As in, "What a long list. I sure am knackered from writing this blog."


And then there's a few words we don't miss:

Bundy: Short for Bundaberg rum, a specialty of Bundaberg, Queensland. Its polar bear logo (come on, polar bears? In Australia?) was everywhere in Oz, including on numerous men who felt the need to wear Bundy gear from head to toe, and on bumper stickers. As in, "Get me a Bundy and Coke!"

Vego: Short for vegetarian. Even more annoying is "vegie" for vegetable (where did the other "g" go?)

Tomato sauce: What the Aussies call ketchup. Talk about a confusing first grocery store experience!

Rubbish bin, or 'bin': We call it a garbage can. It made for plenty of hilariously confusing "Who's on first?" kind of moments in the offices we worked in when we would ask if we should just file this or that document into one of plastic bins on someone's desk. "Trays, these are trays!" we would get. ¡Ay ay ay!

Thongs: The Kiwis (New Zealanders) call them 'jandals'; us North Americans call them flip-flops. No matter how long we had stayed in Oz, we could never, ever get used to calling our poor shoes by this name!

If you're craving a bit more Aussie, be sure to watch Australia (the movie with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman). We just watched it again for nostalgia's sake-- the first time we watched it was in an open-air cinema in tropical Broome, WA, right near where the movie took place-- and it was just as awesome as our first viewing, though without any planes flying overhead or geckoes on the screen this time around. -D.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Introducing... our fridge

Today we thought it would be fun to feature the most-decorated part of our new apartment: the refrigerator!

The fridge itself isn't anything special-- in fact, it's missing a shelf and it's only now beginning to collect some vegetables and a few necessary condiments. But in this case, it's what's on the outside that counts.

Somewhere along the way in Australia, we began collecting a fridge magnet or two from our temporary hometowns and some of the more memorable stops along the way. We accumulated a few more during our jaunt over to Hong Kong and Taiwan. And once we hit the road with Daisy (our van), our magnet collection just grew and grew. Luckily the inside of Daisy had a lot of metal panels above the doors-- plenty of room to display our budding collection.

Turned out there was no shortage of souvenir magnets in Oz-- even the tiniest towns, like Hawker, at the base of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, with a population of 300 people was selling fridge magnets. So was William Creek, SA-- population 6. Any town with the slightest claim to fame sold magnets-- like Wycliffe Well, NT, home to many UFO sightings, or Goulburn, NSW, which had a giant merino sheep to lure in tourists. We bought a boomerang magnet from Broome, WA, a large plastic banana from The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW, and more still. Kitsch is alive and well on the highways of Australia and we're not at all embarrassed to have bought into it. We even continued collecting during our journey through Southeast Asia, though we had to be a bit more choosy when lugging our souvenirs around in our backpacks. Still, we found ourselves a tin boat from Vietnam, ceremonial dance masks from Bali, a tuk-tuk from Thailand. It was only Burma that didn't have a souvenir magnet industry... yet.

And while we may or may not have spent a small fortune shipping all of our magnetic goodies home, it was worth it. We consider it a form of visual diary to our adventures-- one that we get to review every time we go for the milk.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Little Freecycling Never Hurts

A very wise man once said to us: "If it's free, it's for me!" As long-term travellers who were constantly in flux of settling in and packing up, it's not a bad philosophy to live by-- and also not bad for two people returning to Toronto with minimal furnishings for their new and snazzy (and empty) apartment, either.

We moved into our new place near Trinity-Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Friday, taking as much of our old gear as we could find in our families' houses, as well as whatever discarded/left behind items we could scrounge from siblings, etc. After a weekend of crazy wedding fun (congrats, Paula and Sean!) we returned to our lovely apartment to begin the unpacking, the cleaning, and the organizing. And that's when we realized -- whoa-- that while we were well suited up with clothing, appliances, and kitchen supplies, we were almost completely furnitureless. And after checking out what was on offer in places like Sears, Ikea, and even Canadian Tire, we realized how much setting up a one-bedroom apartment might actually cost.

So we started searching a bit on Craigslist, a fantastic free classifieds website we're sure you all know about. It's the same site where we found our apartment; the same site where we've bought other people's old patio furniture, a couch, and random other things; it's also the same site on which we've subletted our apartments and sold our old stuff on as well. It's absolutely great, as was the Aussie/UK equivalent site Gumtree for us along the way. (Though these free classifieds sites aren't so great for the plight of the newspaper! But that's another story.)

But since we're all for recycling and don't really care all that much about having matching furniture, we found lots of goodies to be bought for great prices. And then we checked the "free" section on a whim (usually it's just "clean fill" and kittens on offer there) and found an ad titled "Free Furniture." Too good to be true?? Well, maybe. But definitely worth an email, we thought. Turned out the place with the free furniture was a short walk from our apartment-- and thanks to a lovely landlord, who was cleaning out the contents of one of his rental properties, we returned home with a great desk, bookshelf, table, and the perfect cupboard for the microwave. All for free. Hooray!

We're definitely not the only people into free stuff either. There's the Freecycle network, where people exchange used goods for free, keeping more useful items out of landfills. USA Today did a story on the culture of getting things for free; Freebie-Man (aka. Mike Essex) wrote a book on how to get anything for free after the success of his Blagman blog, in which companies would send him free items in return for him reviewing them online. Not to mention his book is downloadable for free as well! And we just stumbled upon, a handy website where you can learn about free stuff in the city, as well as post listings for free things to help out others. Not a bad idea at all! Now back to unpacking... and possibly a little more perusing too.
Bonus! We found this in our free desk's drawer today...