Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Context Twist

Everyone who takes pleasure in word games enjoys Text Twist. It’s pure fun! It enriches our vocabulary. It makes us want to slap ourselves when we fail to solve a very simple word puzzle. It surprises us when we figure out a new word (which we thought did not exist) in the nick of time. At some point it gives us a sense of fulfillment. Or sheer frustration.

I find adjusting to life in an entirely new environment like that. There are lots of twists when it comes to terms used in conversations. Every time I find myself in such funny and sometimes embarrassing situations, I am constantly reminded of a concept discussed by one of my professors --- same form-different meaning. Such as langgam. To a Visayan it means bird, to a Tagalog it means ant. The list goes on. The reason behind the destruction of the tower of Babel? Absolute confusion.

I might have been an English teacher but mind you I have had, and certainly will still have, my share of confusion here in this place our folks call the land down under. Accent, spelling of some words and pronunciation differ. We were taught with American English while Aussies somewhat follow British English. Listening to them speak is like watching a Harry Potter movie. I like their accent. “How are you mate?” is their basic greeting. But mate is pronounced might. Long /a/ (American English) becomes long /i/. Day sounds like die, stay – sty, bake – bike. And so on. Spelling wise, the s in the word license becomes c while c in practice becomes s; o in color, honor, & behavior is followed by u. These are just some.

Then comes the Aussie slang! I’ve studied a list before we came here but it’s like you have to memorize a dictionary so I could only remember a few. Context clues indeed helped.

If you want to say you took a bath, you have to say “I had a shower.” or else they would think you soaked yourself in a bathtub filled with soapy water. To have a tea is like having lunch or dinner. It may also be a morning or afternoon snacks. If you want to offer just tea, your statement should be “Would you like coffee or tea?” Supper is a meal taken later than eight o’clock.

Lay away – lay by, dine in – eat in, take out – take away, buy grocery items – go shopping, call – ring, and jogging pants – track pants are just a speck on the long list. If someone says “I’ll wear thongs in the beach.” don’t laugh at that person or imagine him/her in his/her sexy undies because it only means he/she’s going to wear slippers. Slippers here mean another thing; it’s the soft comfy bedroom slippers we wear inside the house.

The list of new terms I’ve learned is endless. Certainly more will be added as the years of our stay here unfold. Exciting? YES! Frustrating? Oh, no! Toto (means bye)!