20 November 2013

English or English?

There was an article in my local paper today on surviving the office Christmas party with your dignity intact. It reminded me that's one of the things I love about working for myself - no office party! 

The article had some good tips but was also quite an amusing read. I was about to tweet a link to it when I glanced through it again and was struck by some of the phrases.  I've lived in New Zealand for a number of years and so I’m up with most Kiwi-English jargon, which can be different to Australian-isms and different again to British English, and we all know that’s different to American English.

Even in a small country like England you can find yourself using different words for an item than someone living in a different part of the country. It's ironic that many of us speak this language called English, and yet don’t necessarily understand everything another English speaker may write or say.

The article used phrases such as, ‘three sheets to the wind’ and ‘hitting on’ which might not be understood by everyone, and the mention of mistletoe and your boss might pass you by if you don't know the old traditions.

Sometimes it's relatively easy to guess the meaning of a word in the context of the sentence, but at other times it can be hilariously or disastrously wrong. For example in England the casual open-toed sandal is called a flip-flop, here in New Zealand they're known as jandals, but in Australia they're called thongs which has always been something entirely different to me!

What differences have you noticed in language, or have you got into difficulties by using the wrong name for something?

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