You say…, I say… – A look at the American Vernacular

Americans do not speak English. Well, not proper English anyway – it’s a bastardised version (i.e. it is a unique, distorted version of British English). I once was told a story about an American woman who was at an overseas ATM wanting to withdraw some money. When the teller prompted for the language to use, she complained that there was no button for American – someone nearby told her to use the English option – this hadn’t occurred to her (I am not sure if she was blonde, or if this happens regularly)!

Anyway, as I have mentioned before, although we speak the same language, we have encountered all sorts of issues with being understood in America. Sometimes the word is the same, but pronounced differently, sometimes the word is completely different to what we would use and sometimes it’s just the spelling that is different.

Now, we can thank one Noah Webster (founder of the American dictionary) for all the variations in spelling between British English and American English. In 1801 he started work on his American dictionary because Americans were using words that just weren’t in English dictionaries – for example – ‘skunk’, ‘squash’, ‘chowder’. Webster also believed that English spelling rules were too complex and sought to simplify them; thus changing the spelling of ‘colour’ to ‘color’, ‘metre’ to ‘meter’ and ‘plough’ to ‘plow’. There are plenty of other examples, like ‘masque’ to ‘mask’, ‘gaol’ to ‘jail’ and ‘tyre’ to ‘tire’. However, he thankfully didn’t succeed in the following: ‘cloak’ to ‘cloke’, ‘women’ to ‘wimmen’, ‘tongue’ to ‘tung’ and ‘ache’ to ‘ake’.

Changing the spelling is mostly ok, since it generally hasn’t changed how the word is pronounced. However, when the word is spelt the same, but pronounced differently, that sometimes causes a bit of a smile or a “what the…” reaction. Now it is also true that there is differences between the states with what things are called as well as how words are pronounced (particularly between Northern & Southern states – and New Yorkers seem to have a dialect all their own); I have just listed a few words that we have found differences with here:

English word: How Texans pronounce it: How Aussie pronounce it:
Pecan Pe-kahn Pea-can
Bowie Boo-ey Bow-ie
Caramel Car-ml Car-a-mel
Herb ‘erb Herb
Vehicle Ver-here-cal Veer-cal
Coupon Qu-pon Coop-on
Second Sec-nt Sec-ond
Golf Goff Golf

Words that start with an “h” seem to render the “h” silent as in herb = ‘erb, hotel = ‘otel, etc, but if it’s in the middle of a word, for example, as in “vehicle”, then the “h” is almost stressed.

Then there are the instances when the word for an object is different and when we ask for something using the word we know – we can get a completely blank stare or the “huh?” response. So, here are a few notable differences we have found:

What Aussies would say: What Americans would say:
Petrol Gas
Service station (or Servo) Gas station
Serviette Napkin
Cutlery Flatware or silverware
Garbage Trash
Toilet Bathroom or restroom
Tap Faucet
Runners (or joggers) Tennis shoes
Footpath Sidewalk
Take-away Carry-out
Bench-top Counter-top
Entrée Appetiser
Main Entrée
Thongs Flip-flops
Biscuit* Cookie
Arnotts biscuits - delicious!

Arnotts biscuits – delicious!

*A note on the humble biscuit. Now, in Australia (& Britain & New Zealand too), a biscuit is a sweet, delicious thing (similar, but not the same as an American cookie) and is often dunked into your tea or coffee. My favourites are probably all made by Arnotts; check out their website to understand more about this iconic Aussie company and their products.

Biscuits in America are a bread-like item and more like a scone than anything else and are often served with a main meal and with gravy.

But some of the most interesting sayings – I have at times almost needed to ask what they were talking about, or indeed have felt the need to correct their grammar. The word “drug” is used instead of “dragged” and a bedroom suite (Aussies would pronounce that as ‘sweet’ and refers to a bedroom setting made up of bed, bedside tables, dressing table and drawers) is referred to as a bedroom suit – when I first heard this one I thought it might be something akin to your birthday suit, but worn in the bedroom!

Not all are bad though, and some of my favourite (not favorite) Texan sayings include: “Y’all” and “Do what now?” – meaning could you please repeat what you just said.

The development of language and dialect is interesting and I am not saying Aussies are perfect either – we have a terrible habit of abbreviating just about everything wherever possible – see the “servo” example above (and maybe that’s something to look at in a future blog).

Please share your views and thoughts in the comment section below: 🙂

Bread – why so sweet?

OK – why is bread so sweet in America?

Since we have been in the US of A, one of the things we miss most about home is the wonderful fresh bread we have ready access to (particularly the fresh delightful “Bakers Delight” bread, oh I miss that so much!). Bread in the US is VERY sweet; it is impossible to find bread at the supermarket, or even a “bakery”, without a significant amount of sugar in it (up to 4 or 5 grams per serve – more in buns and rolls). I just don’t understand Americas need to add sugar to just about everything (no wonder they have health and weight issues). And from what I can gather, anyone coming from outside of America doesn’t like their bread either – even Americans returning from overseas stays!

I think going home and eating good bread made me realise how much I like and miss it. Last week I finally reached a point where I decided it was time to try my hand at making my own bread and ordered a bread maker/machine!

My first homemade loaf of bread!

My first homemade loaf of bread!

The new Bread-maker in action

The new Bread-maker in action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yesterday I had a go at making a basic white loaf, following the directions (but halving the sugar amount). It turned out ok and although my first attempt was not an unmitigated disaster, there certainly is room for improvement – it was still a bit dense and heavy for me. Does anyone have a good recipe for light, fluffy bread you can make in a bread maker? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this one!

Meanwhile, I have some bananas that are too ripe – a great excuse to attempt a banana bread loaf! 🙂

The Issue of Pie – not just a dessert food!

Note: Sorry for the lateness of this post – it was supposed to happen last week!

a tomato & onion pie for one!

a tomato & onion pie for one!

After returning from my recent trip to Australia, I had a longing for a good meat pie (having enjoyed a couple whilst I was there) – and since you cannot buy a meat pie here in Sherman, Texas, I set about making my own family sized meat pie (I added tomato and onion too, because that’s my favourite).

In America, a meat pie (as an Aussie or Kiwi would think of one) is practically unknown and although pizzas are sometimes referred to as pi’s, a pie in the US is generally of the sweet, dessert variety.

berry pie - courtesy of my friend Becky Goldsmith

berry pie – picture courtesy of my friend Becky Goldsmith

American’s love their pies and the research I have done indicates that there are dozens of favourite varieties including: pecan (definitely a Texan favourite), apple, coconut cream, custard and cream, strawberry, rhubarb, key lime, cherry, Mississippi mud, banana cream, blueberry, lemon meringue, peach, etc., the list goes on. However, in Australia, if you mention pie, most people would conjure up the image of a good old meat pie smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup). And a meat pie has a pastry top as well as a pastry bottom. A true meat pie should not be confused with an American “pot pie” which is served in a crockery pot with a pastry top (not a true pie)! Americans, please be advised –  pies are not just for sweet things and can be equally delicious when filled with savoury flavours (pumpkin and sweet potato don’t count).

One family sized meat pie!

One family sized meat pie!

The meat pie is a staple in Australia – a favourite at all sporting events (as Americans would consume hotdogs at the football, Aussies would eat a hand-held meat pie), it could almost be considered a favourite national dish. The traditional meat pie is made of diced or minced meat and is most often smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup).

Dinner: a slice of meat pie served with veges and a glass of red wine!

Dinner: a slice of meat pie served with veges and a glass of red wine!

Now meat pies are not solely made of beef; in Australia pies often contain other, flavour enhancing ingredients (mushrooms, tomato & onions, cheese, bacon, peas, carrots, etc.) or instead of the traditional beef, the main filling could be lamb, chicken or even seafood. The humble meat pie has come a long way in Australia; there are now many gourmet-type pies. (I should also mention this applies equally in New Zealand – where you can find some mighty fine and delicious pies. I know because I have lived there and enjoyed quite a few).

Meat pies also feature in an iconic jingle to promote Holden cars in Australia (made by GMH, a subsidiary of the US General Motors) “…football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” Perhaps Americans would recognise a similar jingle by American Chevrolet: “…baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”?

Aussies are so passionate about their pies, there is an annual competition to determine the best pies in the land – The Official Great Aussie Pie Competition http://www.greataussiepiecomp.com.au/

Do you have a thought or comment about pies? I’d love to hear it. Post a comment below.

A visit to Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Before I left Texas I visited the Sherman Museum, and since I was in Newcastle city, with some free time, I decided to re-visit the Newcastle Museum; so here is some information about the museum of my Australian hometown:

Originally established in 1988 as a bicentennial project the Newcastle Museum was initially housed in the former Castlemaine Brewery in Hunter Street and remained in that location in Newcastle West until 2008, when it closed so that it could relocate. In 2011 the museum re-opened at its current position (and incidentally, the original preferred site), occupying 3 National Trust buildings at the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops in Newcastle (namely: the Locomotive Boiler Shop, the New Erecting Shop and the Blacksmith and Wheel Shop). The museum is located just one street back from the harbour front and is close to some excellent harbour-side dining.

The museum hosts several temporary exhibitions which change regularly (check the museum website for a list of current Special Exhibitions) and is home to 3 permanent exhibits.

  • Fire and Earth – in this exhibit, two of the main industries that have played a part in shaping the identity and culture of Newcastle are brought together in an interesting display: the coal industry and BHP steel making. Included in this display is the BHP Experience – a dramatic presentation using “very theatrical sound, lighting, vision and mechanical effects to create an absorbing, up close experience of a steel pour”. 1.

    Part of the Steelworks display

    Part of the BHP Experience

Newcastle was known as the “Steel City” because BHP played a huge part in the development of Newcastle. BHP existed in Newcastle from 1915 to 1999 and was probably the backbone of the city employing thousands of Novocastrians. In Newcastle, you either worked at BHP or knew someone who did (both my parents and my husband worked for BHP). However, BHP closed down its steel making operations in Newcastle in 1999 and although traumatic for many at the time, the city is arguably better for it now!

 

Supernova – a hands on science centre (great for the kids)

  • Arnott's Biscuits - A Famous Australian brand - founded in the Newcastle region

    Arnott’s Biscuits – A Famous Australian brand – founded in the Newcastle region

    A Newcastle Story – examines Newcastle’s history, from early aboriginal history, convict origins and its cultural development through war, immigration, sports, etc. There are displays depicting famous Novocastrians, our sporting feats, our lifestyle and also a display relating the devastating earthquake Newcastle suffered in 1989.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry to the museum is free. The museum also has an excellent café “Sprout Canteen”, open from 8:30am serving breakfast and lunch.

1. Newcastle Museum

 

The 2nd Sunday in May

MOTHER’S DAY!

Yellow Chrysanthemums

Yellow Chrysanthemums – a traditional Mother’s Day flower in Australia

The 2nd Sunday in May is  recognised in many countries as Mother’s Day. According to Wikipedia – “Mother’s Day is a modern celebration honouring one’s own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society”. But how did it come into being?

Mother’s Day as we know it didn’t begin until the 20th century. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in America in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother; she wanted to honour her mother and began campaigning to have Mother’s Day recognised as a holiday in the USA from 1905 (the year her mother died). She succeeded in her campaign, but later became resentful and tried to rescind Mother’s Day as she saw how, by the 1920’s it had become commercialised, with Hallmark and other companies producing gift cards, etc and profiting from it. It was meant to be about sentiment, not profit. Mother’s Day was meant to honour and appreciate mothers through hand written letters expressing love and gratitude, not through gifts and pre-made cards.

Apparently Mothers Day was first celebrated in Australia in 1924. A certain Mrs. J Heydon claims she began the tradition of giving gifts to mothers when she began taking gifts to brighten the lives of the lonely mothers of the Newington State Home (in Sydney) in 1924.

In Australia, the chrysanthemum is traditionally given to mothers for Mother’s Day as the plant is in flower and in season during May (autumn in Australia) and ends in “mum” (the common affectionate abbreviation for “mother” in Australia).

Purple and White Chrysanthemums

Purple and White Chrysanthemums

To all the mothers – have a truly wonderful Mother’s Day, I hope you are all spoilt, but also take the time to remember just how fortunate you are too. It is a privilege to be a mother and not every woman gets to experience that, so count your blessings and enjoy your day!

 

 

It’s About Time!

It’s about time I found my mojo again and did a blog post! It’s time I stopped letting distractions lead me away from what I like to do (like this blog).

I have let distractions like living out of a suitcase for the past month, not having my own space or place, being away from my husband and even the disastrous weather we have had, get the better of me and prevent me from posting some blogs.

Now, its not like I’ve had nothing to write about, I have just let other things get on top of me, get me down and have used them as an excuse. Well, its time to get back on the horse, so to speak and get on with it.

Much has happened in the past month – I returned to my hometown (although, not to my own home), returned to work, got caught up in the disastrous storms and floods here in the Newcastle and Maitland areas of NSW (see some photos), ‘celebrated’ ANZAC day by attending a commemorative dawn service and have generally been re-familiarising myself with Newcastle and catching up with family and friends. It’s been a busy time, I can’t believe how busy I have been; I thought I would have so much more free time. But enough with the excuses –

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about” – Thank you to Sir Winston Churchill

I have now had 600 visitors to this site, so thanks to all for the support!  Please stay tuned; there will be more to come soon!

How Big Is Australia?

It didn’t take me long to appreciate the size of the USA and all it has to offer. The contiguous US (the 48 adjoining states) is vast, covering an area that is a bit smaller than the size of Australia. Although I am now more familiar with the geography, history and culture of the US, I realise that many Americans know very little about Australia (most Americans don’t get to travel too much and seem to be indoctrinated from an early age that America is the greatest and best nation on Earth; they forget there is a whole other world out there and that the USA is just one part of it, not the centre of it). We have been asked many questions about our homeland, which we are happy to answer; on one occasion we were asked what language we spoke in Australia!  (Yes, it is English). So, I thought I would share a few facts.

Map of Australia

Map of Australia

Some in the USA do not realise just how big it really is, or the diversity we have. Australia is the smallest continent, yet the 6th largest country in the world. We have temperate and tropical rain forests, snow-capped mountains, and quite a bit of desert (~ 70% of the country). In fact, only 10% of the continent is inhabited and 85% of the population lives within 50km (31mi) of the coast.

For those who like a visual feast – check this link, which illustrates just how big Australia is. 17 Maps of Australia

How does Australia compare to the USA? Some facts and figures:

  Australia USA
Total land area 7.68M km2 (2.9M mi2) 9.16M km2 (3.8M mi2)
Ranking in world by area 6/194 3/194
Population 23.6M ~319M
Population density 2 per km2 (0.8/mi2) 34 per km2 (13.1/mi2)
Coastline length 25,765km 19,924km
Capital Canberra Washington
Number of states 6 (+ 2 territories) 50
Largest City (population) Sydney (4.5M) New York (8.4M)
Highest mountain Kosciuszko (2,228m) McKinley (6,168m)
Lowest point Lake Eyre (-15m) Badwater Basin (-86m)
Longest River Murray (2,375km) Missouri (3,767km)

Some more interesting facts about Australia:

Australia:

  • Is the driest inhabited continent on Earth
  • Is the only continent without an active volcano
  • Has the worlds largest coral reef complex – The Great Barrier Reef (off the coast of the state of Queensland)
  • Has the longest fence in the world – ‘The Dingo Fence’ stretches 5,400km from Queensland to South Australia
  • Has the largest cattle station in the world – Anna Creek Station in South Australia is 8 times bigger than the largest ranch in Texas, USA
  • Chose the Emu and Kangaroo for its coat of arms as these animals are incapable of walking backwards, so represented a nation moving forward!
  • Was claimed for Great Britain in 1770 by Captain James Cook
  • Was settled in 1788 (when the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay) as a penal colony. (Botany Bay proved unsuitable, so the colonists relocated to Port Jackson – now Sydney Cove)
  • Became an independent nation January 1, 1901. The Commonwealth of Australia was established as a constitutional monarchy. (Australia did not gain true independence until 1986 when the Australia Acts came into force, where the British government would no longer be responsible for the government of any state and the Westminster parliament could no longer legislate for Australia. Additionally, Australia took full control of all Australia’s constitutional documents). Ref.

I know Americans fear Australia because of our reputation as having some of the deadliest creatures on the planet. So, here are some facts about our ”deadliest creatures”.

Australia:

  • Has 4 of the 5 most deadly snakes in the world
  • Has the most poisonous spider in the world: the Sydney Funnel-web
  • Has the most poisonous fish in the world – the stonefish (in Australia, this is only found north of the Tropic of Capricorn, on the Queensland north coast).
  • Has the largest species of the Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)– the “most venomous marine creature” in the world, responsible for at least 64 human deaths since 1883
Sydeny Funnel-web spider

Sydney Funnel-web spider – image courtesy of Daily Telegraph

I came across culture guide to Australia web page that you might find interesting. http://www.australian-information-stories.com/

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share 🙂

Imperial vs Metric!

Why does the US persist with the Imperial system of measurement? It is archaic and extremely frustrating. The USA is one of only 3 countries left in the world where the Metric system has not officially been adopted; the other two are Myanmar (Burma) and Liberia!

I am constantly frustrated by the continued use of Imperial measurements in the USA. Whilst cooking the other day, a recipe called for a quart of water – I had to go and look it up – I had no idea (it’s just short of a litre, or almost 4 cups, by the way)! Using miles instead of kilometres is bad enough, but having to convert pounds and ounces, inches, feet, yards and miles and fluid ounces, quarts and gallons does my head in! Not to mention the use of Fahrenheit instead of degrees celsius – that is just annoying. Celsius is so much easier – water freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C – simple! (For those curious, the respective values in Fahrenheit are 32°F & 212°F). But Americans are afraid of change (I’m hoping it’s not arrogance). So, let me reassure my Americans friends, there is nothing to fear – it’s easy – the Metric measurement system is all based on a factor of 10 – simple really!

The below image showed up on Facebook, so I’ve borrowed it from there to illustrate:

Imperial vs Metric

Imperial vs Metric

The metric system is used in the fields of medicine, science and technology and even in international sporting events like the Olympics (e.g. the running track is 400m). It is after-all, the International standard for measurement. So, when will the USA catch up to the rest of the world and switch to the International System of Units and embrace the metric system?

For those Americans who would like to know more I have added  simplified (I, hope) table to explain, otherwise –  here might be a good place to start.

Base units for each measurement type:
Length Metre (m)
Weight Gram (g)
Volume Litre (L)

What the prefixes mean:

Milli (m) 1/1000
Centi (c) 1/100
Deci (d) 1/10
Deca (da) x10
Hecto (h) x100
Kilo (k) x1000
* Deci, Deca & Hecto are not routinely used in everyday measurements

For weights and volumes generally only the base unit and the milli and kilo prefixes are routinely used in everyday measurements. For lengths – the additional use of centimetre (cm) is common. So, the most common examples would be:

Lengths: 1km = 1000m and 1m = 100cm = 1000mm

Weight: 1 kg = 1000g and 1g = 1000mg

Volume: 1L = 1000mL

🙂

 

Pi Day

Did everyone know that it is Pi Day on Saturday March 14th (3/14) an event that is observed around the world each year? I did not know this until a friend brought it to my attention (Thanks Becky).

Pi – (the Greek letter “π”) is a mathematical constant – the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, most commonly represented as 3.14159. Surely everyone remembers Pi from high school maths? [The area of a circle = πr²].

The first 10 digits of Pi are 3.141592653, so this Saturday – 3.14.15 (March 14, 2015)  at 9:26:53am is a 1 in 100 year event when the date and time exactly correspond to the first 10 digits of Pi! Amazing!

Learn more about Pi at www.piday.org or at www.timeanddate.com

Pi = 3.14159265358979323

Pi = 3.1415926535897932384626433

Enjoy Pi day and eat some pie! 🙂

Take a Chance

Sometimes I need a reminder that to get to where you want (or need) to go, you need to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. Maybe you do too, so I thought I would share this inspirational thought:

A ship is safe in harbour, but that is not what ships are for!

A ship is safe in harbour, but that is not what ships are for!

(image courtesy of “Today is Going to be a Great Day” from Page-A-Day Calendars)