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Lost in translation

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Since I last lived here in the 90s, Aussies have altered an iconic aspect of their culture. Previously if you passed an everyday bloke or sheila on the street, “G”day” would usually suffice. You knew where you were with that. Now, for some reason they have discarded it and gone for a stab at modernisation. “How you doing?” they now say as they stride on by. To begin with this had me as confused as a hungry baby at a strip club. In the first couple of weeks I tried to answer the question, but by the time I had got the first couple of words of “I’m fine thanks and yourself,” they were half way up the street. What started out as a confident and polite reply ended up a swallowed mumble, as I realised I was talking to myself. I suspect this is an Australian take on our English “How do you do?” “How do you do?” salutation. A form of rhetorical ping pong which sounds faintly ridiculous now the empire consists of Liz and Phil, BBC Weahld Siervice and Branston Pickle (which you can still find in most unlikeliest of places). A bit like a new version of Microsoft Windows I can’t help feeling this new form of greeting is an unnecessary upgrade. On the subject of language Emma has been letting people into a secret; she knows the words for things in both German and English, and is not keen on keeping it to herself. One Sunday our friends Sue and Neal invited us for lunch at a cafe they liked in the very twee town of Morpeth. It used to be a hard-nosed, blue collar coal mining town. Now gentrified i.e. the coal mine went bust and all the miners left, every other house on the main road has been turned into either an artisanal craft store, a cafe, or a juice bar. Halfway through our fish and chips, Emma asks Neal “Do you know what the word for tomato sauce is in German?” “No, I don’t.” He replies. “Ketchup,” she says earnestly. Every day we wake up and pray that this isn't the day Fraser has decided he is going to walk. What with all manner of things that slither and creep in the bush, once he gets on his pins and totters off in search of more adventure our five minute reveries are over. He is adventurous enough as it is and has crawled off a couple of times only to be brought back by a kindly camper. " Is this young man yours?" One haughty old biddy said as she handed over a bemused Fraser. Without waiting for an answer she turns around and off she goes but not without a parting shot. " As a nana, I do care for the little ones." Well you can't be perfect all the time can you? Fraser has even managed to get himself a nickname in the campsites and caravan parks around NSW. "Hey there Speedbump", they call out to us as they drive carefully past him in their 4x4s.

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