Why Aussies can’t say “No” and other linguistic failures

That’s not my name!

Can I have the chicken salad and a bottle of water please?

Sorry?

I just wanted to order the chicken salad. And a water.

*confused look*
I don’t understand you.”

I’ll spare you the entirety of this conversation, suffice to say it ended when I did my best Charlie Chaplin impression and just started pointing at the things I wanted.

Oh! You have an accent! It’s cute!

No teenager, it’s not cute. It’s annoying and frustrating.

This is not the first time I’ve been misunderstood or that the sounds I use to form words are not recognized as a discernible language to anyone in my vicinity.

There’s nothing worse than having to repeat yourself more than four times. By that point it’s time to pack up and go home because that horse is dead and you best leave it be.

I never thought I had a particularly pronounced Australian accent, but I cop strange looks for everything from “No” to “tea” and even my own damn name. Yeah Starbucks. Who is even called Kite?

The worst part is when someone clearly has no idea what you’ve said but tries not to let on. The panic in their eyes is terrible. I want to hug one of my spin instructors and assure him that no one knows what I’m saying, every time he tries to strike up a conversation with me. His mouth laughs but his eyes tell a completely different story.

So here’s what I’ve noticed after three-ish months of American living.

  • The R factor: Think water (wa-da), poor (paw), door (doa).  I just want a glass of H20. Maybe even a bottle. I’m thirsty and you’re looking at me like I’ve violated some obscure human right. Like most Aussies, I don’t pronounce my r’s. It’s like they don’t even exist.
  • Ending in a: This follows on from the inability to pronounce the letter r. We replace it with an a. If I had a dollar (dolla) for every time a co-worker parroted my pronunciation of ever (eva), better (betta), or butter (butta)…. I’d have all the moneys.
  • Would you like to buy a vowel?: I can’t hear it myself but apparently we add extra vowels to our words. “No” is a prime example. I’ve been told it sounds more like a “naooouuoeeo”. They just don’t know how to get bang for their buck. Why use one vowel when you can crowbar most of them in there? 
  • That question was not a query: Do you enjoy a good upwards inflection? Like it so much that you don’t just want to limit it to questions? You’re in luck! Adopt an Australian accent and all your sentences end as if you’re asking something important. “Hi?”, “Actually I spent the weekend just vegging out?” etc.

If you’ve got any to add hit me with them!

Living overseas | Living abroad | Understanding Australians | Australians | Australian accent | Aussie accent | speaking American | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US

10 thoughts on “Why Aussies can’t say “No” and other linguistic failures

  1. PMSL – I can so relate to this although it's the Aussies that don't understand my accent !!!! But, it's getting better and now in my 10th job since we first arrived here I am finally getting better at training them to understand me – LOL
    We had so many laughs when we were visiting K with being misunderstood !!! I hope it improves and stops being annoying and frustrating !!

  2. Haha, you'll have to give me the reverse training Linda! One of my work colleagues is constantly parroting me because he wants to perfect an Aussie accent. I suspect it's just a way to get away with mockery. It's funny either way! It's all mostly funny but it can get to the annoying realm sometimes.

  3. Hi Kate! Enjoyed the read. 😉 I'd like to apologize on behalf of my fellow Americans for making you repeat yourself. In their defense, they probably don't have too much experience with Aussie accents, but still, I know how maddening it can feel to have to repeat. Do you ever just get frustrated and purposely bust out your best American accent?

    I was on a cruise where I met a woman from New Zealand (and I'd been there so I was familiar with the accent) but I probably embarrassed myself a few times. I didn't even realize her mom's name was Jan until I saw it written on an envelope, had been calling her Jen.

    The one accent that gives me real trouble is Trinidad. I swear my friend would play it up just to mess with me. And mess with me it did!
    Anyway, as a foreigner with an accent in France, I can relate. All the best in 2017!

  4. Hey Diane, thanks for visiting. Haha, there's no need to apologise, I totally get that it's our fault for not being able to pronounce words properly! I think that we are able to understand Americans so well because most of our TV is from the US so the accent is pretty familiar.

    Oh my gosh, that's happened to me a few times as well, don't worry. New Zealanders are lovely I'm sure she forgave you 😉

    Hmm. Scottish gives me a lot of trouble, I have to really listen hard. Have fun in France!

  5. Oh I enjoyed reading this! I have a mix of accents with the lovely upward inflection built in too. Always makes for interesting conversations! Moving to Australia soon so I will be right at home.

    My husband (English) was recently asked if he spoke English in a fast food place in Canada after asking what “Twintogo” meant at least 6 times. Apparently he was being asked if he wanted to eat in or take it away😂

    1. You’re a child of the world then Tracy! Your poor husband! This has happened to me so many times in fast food places. They ask me where I’m from and I respond “Australia”. They just blink at me like “why don’t you understand English then?”

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