Is That a Banana in Your Pocket…?


Americans would call a certain type of men’s underware “tighty whiteys.” Because they are… white. And… tight. In Australia, they are colloquially known as “budgie smugglers.” Why? 

A Budgie! Who kindly requests never to be involved in any budgie smuggling.

A Budgie! Who kindly requests never to be involved in any budgie smuggling.

I’ll only go as far as saying a budgie is a parakeet-sized bird (same species in “Dumb and Dumber“).

It made me think of how funny it would be to hear an Australian use the “banana in your pocket” line, because you know they’d pronounce it “Bah.nah.nah.”

These Australians say the darndest things, including: ..

  • “in hospital” – I don’t know why they eliminate “the.”  Example: “Oh gosh, did you hear Katie’s mom is in hospital?” or “I think Beth is going to have her baby in hospital.”
  • “that’s clever” – well done, beautiful, smart…
  • “on his own” – single man/woman – “Jim lives over in Moab now, and he’s on his own…”
  • “energetic” – to describe something strenuous. A person leaving for a 10K run might be told, “Wow, that’s energetic!” My hiking pamphlet said of trail options, “If you want something less energetic…”
  • “you’d get on like a house on fire” – really like one another
  • “what a nuisance!” – said in place of “that’s too bad.”
  • “nevermind” – used to transition forward in conversation, away from problems or concerns.
  • “sort of…” – common modifier
  • “I must remember/do…” – used by the speaker to declare future intentions. Generally I think Americans would not externalize these thoughts or would express them as a want. “I’d really like to read that book.” “I would love to learn to knit.”  “I need to get back into working out.”
  • “well and truly” – sort of like, “really.” “When we get home from our ten hour hike, we will be well and truly exhausted.”
  • “working away” – often mine workers are described this way – as in “My wife Sandy works away at the mines.”
Minnesota basketball player meets Aussie Greek.

Minnesota basketball player meets Aussie Greek.

I didn’t realize how much brain power it takes to comprehend all this funny vocab and accented English… until I went to a party. Among the crowd, there were two American basketball players who’d been recruited by the Bunbury team. We’d been chatting for all of two minutes when I suddenly felt my brain breathe a huge sigh of relief. Apparently it does take mental effort to understand the accent!

A few days later, I went kayaking with an Aussie I’d met at the party, which, in the language department, was a hilarious SNAFU from the word go. Dude’s kayak is an absolute tank, I sat up front with the wind in my ears, we got ourselves into a situation that required strenuous exertion, and we come from very different paddling theory backgrounds. We could neither hear, see or understand each other for better than 70% of the afternoon. Made an internationally-outsourced customer service phone call seem like a walk in the park! 🙂

Other things that make my brain go, “Whoa!”:

Flies Don’t Fly – These winged creatures look the same, but are far more infuriating. They land on my face when I’m outside working and don’t buzz off unless I get my hand within an inch of their homestead. When my hands are full, I’m driven to the brink of insanity.

So sad they aren't edible...

So sad you can’t eat them…

Planet Australia – the vegetation here is so many different shapes and heights, not to mention all the crazy shades of green, yellow, brown, and red smudging across the landscape. It’s befuddling that the land simultaneously appears sparse and fertile. I particularly like the paddy (paddock) melons. They look like wild baby watermelons, but are apparently inedible.

Pound Cake – I learned recently is named for the ingredient quantities. Someone please tell me you also didn’t know that it’s because it contains a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, etc…

Easy Lazy Money – I’ve had several people mention to me that American drive-through ATMs blew their minds the first time they saw them. They go on to politely remark that it seems congruent with the nation’s identity of stunning laziness. I’ve defended my brethren by explaining how much safer it seems to grab cash from the relative safety of your automobile when it’s after hours.

And supposedly this wasn't even a "good" day!

And supposedly this wasn’t even a “good” day!

Island Life – I’m still getting accustomed to living so close to stunning beaches – white sands, gorgeous water, dolphins leaping on the horizon, stingrays winging across the breaks – love it!

Street Safe – pedestrians do not have the right-of-way here. I have never in three months seen a car hesitate when a pedestrian approaches the road or crosswalk. Many of the cars are “utes” – essentially an El Camino-ish automobile – short for utility. The front is like a car, the back is like a truck, and they are, apparently, very cool.

Apparently the sought-after vehicle for a hefty demographic.

A ute: apparently the sought-after vehicle for a hefty demographic.

Money Madness – yeah, yeah, yeah, Australia is expensive. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to hear a teen on the train respond to her friend’s query about her retail service wage with “eighteen dollars an hour.” The country is also fraught with red tape. It seems like 9.5 out of 10 jobs require a “qualification” – usually a course taking anywhere from six weeks to an entire semester  To be a cook at Denny’s, you need a qualification. To clean rooms on remote mine sites, you need a qualification. To hold the stop sign in a road construction zone, you need a qualification. The latter cost a woman I met $600. She paid $600 for a piece of paper that says she knows how to hold a stop sign!

The next Aussie trend?

The next Aussie trend?

Build It How? – Allegedly it’s becoming more common here for builders (contractors) to utilize passive-solar. I reckon most Australians I’ve met at least know what the term means. There is also a trend toward modernist construction. Think Jetsons. Very sterile and weird. Oh, and another fad in floorplans is to have the master bedroom at the front of the house. Why? And finally, most homes here are double brick and plaster construction, which means the walls aren’t sheetrock/drywall. It’s a bit odd to me, and means almost all houses have cornices to join the wall with the ceiling.

Green Clean!

Green Clean!

Green Goodness – As is true globally, many homes here do not have or use a clothes dryer. Also catching on in OZ are Enjo (said en-yo) cleaning products. From what I can tell, a variety of micro-fiber cloths for every cleaning task… mop covers, streak-free glass scrubbing, and even these neat little tile scrubbers that produce infomercial-worthy miracles.

Getting Grub – Grocery stores are almost always in shopping centers, especially indoor shopping centers. I haven’t seen the standalone affair you usually find in the U.S. and New Zealand. Many stores have a “ confectionery free checkout.” At first I thought it meant I couldn’t pay for my tiny, $1.85 Snickers bar in that lane. Enlightenment: it’s designed to save parents of begging children a massive headache.

Tea Time – I grew up not understanding what tea leaves were or how one’s fortune could be read in them. Now every time I make loose-leaf tea, which is quite common here, I wonder what the leaves say about my life.

Busted! Get in the cage!

Busted! Get in the cage!

Po-Show – Most police cars I’ve seen are actually utes with a cage on the back – much like the government animal control vehicles I saw in my youth. Weird! And the highways down south are so infrequently patrolled that when Margaret sees the slower 90km/hr signs, she “tends to just ignore those.” (!!)

‘Merica – Lots of bits of American entertainment here, including – surprisingly – Little House on the Prairie.  M told me her kids read the books growing up (as did I). Funny because they depict real scenes from my childhood (the prairie and snow, specifically).

Pleasantville – Lawns and public spaces here tend to be very tidy. Even while parked in an airport industrial area at night eating an apple, my surrounds were pristine enough that the thought of tossing my core made me feel guilty!

University Living – it’s my loose understanding that there are no dorms and associated cafeteria/food options at the schools here in Western Australia. There are, however, “colleges” – sort of like sororities/fraternities, but generally run by religious organizations and competitive to get into.

Melting Pot – I’ve ridden the bus that plies the coastal highways south of Perth on three occasions now. Each time, I’m struck by the demographic variety among passengers. The last trip included: a foreign woman in her 30s; parents of a newborn; my thick-necked seatmate who looked like a drug-dealing bouncer and was reading a computer science textbook; a neatly dressed early grandfather; a man in a tidy polo shirt, a mid-fifties woman who looked like she must own several vacation homes; and me!

More to come in the Australian Observations department. Stay tuned! ♣



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