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English words that sound different around the world (1)

It’s finally here! The most epic megabattle in the English language since the pilgrims settled in the USA has arrived – and it’s a debate of global proportions. How do you say party in South African English? What are jandals? We need answers! Let the battle commence.

Your contenders:

From the UK: Tom
From the USA: Martinique
From Australia: Erin
From New Zealand: Fiona
From South Africa: Christine

1. How are you?

Tom: “How’s it going?” is the standard information salutation in the United Kingdom. I’m not really sure what’s going where in that statement, but I didn’t invent the phrase, so I just roll with it.

Martinique: Hi, how are you?” is just a common courtesy but doesn’t mean you should tell us your life story. You just always respond, “Good, thanks, you?” unless you really know the person.

Erin: You’ll hear, “How’re ya goin’?” which often causes non-Aussies to look blank, think transport, and answer, “Um, by bus?

Fiona: In New Zealand, we say, “Howzit goin?’ which is the casual way to greet your friends. If they’re really good friends then it would be “Howzit goin’ bro?

Christine: In South Africa, we say, “Howzit?” It’s a great word to use if you don’t really have the energy to stop and chat, but it is friendly enough for people to still like you. If you want to up the friendship ante, use “Howzit ma bru?”

2. Sport shoes

T: In England, we call these trainers because you do athletic training in them, although, it essentially applies to any casual shoe made by some kind of sports brand.

M: We either say tennis shoes or sneakers, depending on where you are in the U.S. – most Americans say tennis shoes, but the East Coast sticks with sneakers.

E: We call these joggers, but you might hear older folks refer to them as sandshoes. (Though, those seem to have been the original simple, white canvas version.)

F: Running shoes are the proper sport shoes. Even though we call them running shoes, they are actually used for any physical activity.

C: Tackies (also pronounced as takkies or tekkies) are canvas shoes with rubber soles. Since the word derives from Dutch, it is thought to be linked to tacky or something sticky, which I guess you could say rubber soles might seem.

3. Excellent

T: The standard noun for something really good in the U.K. is to describe it as cool. Confusingly, cool can also mean cold, calm, or fashionable, depending on the context.

M: You can say cool, but if you really want to impress others, then bust out: snatched, on fleek, sick or sweet. I know the double-meaning is confusing, but just rock it with confidence.

E: Rad is a popular choice. It’s short for radical, which was the cool word to use in the 1980s.

F: Sweet as!” is the Kiwi (New Zealander) term for something excellent or good, which gets confusing when you describe something that’s sweet as sweet as. Mind: blown.

C: Kiff is the ultimate South African surfer slang. It’s related to the Dutch word for poison, gif, which used to mean something else, but has now evolved to express the excitement South African surfers feel when they see a big wave.

4. Barbecue

T: This comes from the Spanish word barbacoa and in the U.K. we spell it barbecue with a ‘C’. There are some people who think it’s actually spelled BBQ, but I don’t talk to those people.

M: We say barbecue in the U.S. but usually spell it out BBQ. We are in the 21st century, after all, so everything has to be shortened, except our meal time.

E: Just like our neighbors in New Zealand, we Aussies also say barbie. If one word makes you think of summer, that’s it.

F: The great Kiwi barbie or BBQ – summer wouldn’t be the same without it! This popular method of cooking is the staple of our summer meals: Just light the barbie and throw on the sausies (sausages).

C: A braai is a meal cooked on a fire outside. Ignore the rain and throw some boerewors (sausages) and chops (meat) on the braai. Or simply invite your friends for a bring and braai to get the jol (party) started.

5. Flip-flops

T: For me, flip-flops are the light, sandal-type things you wear to the beach in the summer. Weirdly, I don’t know how else to describe them other than as flip-flops. Isn’t language funny!

M: We say flip-flops for your more casual look, like when you’re headed out to the beach to surf. Sandals are more fancy and what you would wear on a hot summer night date.

E: In Australia, they’re called thongs – not to be confused with the tiny underpants!

F: In New Zealand, jandals are the most popular form of footwear in the summer, the logical name coming from “Japanese sandals” because, originally, a Kiwi created the traditional Japanese wooden sandal out of plastic.

C: Cool flip-flops? In South Africa, we’d say “Those are some kiff slops!” I’ve no idea why they are called slops. Perhaps someone found them sloppy?

6. Friend

T: The standard greeting for friends in the U.K. is mate, although usually just to men. For ladies, you’ll probably have to call them by name, because only some of them will appreciate being greeted the same way as your male friends, and things could get ugly real fast.

M: Since the U.S. rules the world in slang terms, you can say friend or step-up your game by saying dude, bro, sis, fam, or if they are your best friend – bestie.

E: Mate is also commonly used in Australia between guys. Us girls often use lady, especially in written communication, and both men and women use dude, too.

F: In New Zealand, we also use the term mate, but mostly between men. Girls tend to use the more feminine version, chickie.

C: Yet another South African word with Dutch origins – boet is directly translated as brother and mainly used for male friends. But be wild and use the abbreviated version of the word, bru, for anyone you can think of.

7. To tease someone

T: In England, the phrase is to take the mickey, which means to mock or tease someone. The origin of the phrase comes from Mick, meaning an Irish person, because the English used to make fun of the Irish a lot. (To be fair, they had it coming.)

M: We would say pulling your leg or yanking your chain, but that’s pretty old school. I usually just say, “I’m joking with you!” or “I’m teasing you!”, since most people don’t get that I joke 96% of the time.

E: We say take the piss in Australia, but you can also use the term pay someone out. For example, “We paid him out for wearing that awful shirt.”

F: In New Zealand, we take the piss, which is an expression to ridicule or mock others.

C: In South Africa, we tune people. In other words, we give someone grief (tune them grief) or go a little more extreme and tune people kak.

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