Swimsuits are called different things in different parts of Australia.
Swimsuits are called different things in different parts of Australia. Jupiterimages

Togs, cossie, swimmers or bathers: How to speak 'Stralian'

A FRIEND of mine had shop staff totally confused recently on the south coast when she went into a surf shop and asked for a pair of togs.

They were all under the age of 25 and none of them had a clue what she wanted to buy.

I explained to her that here in NSW you have to ask for a cossie or swimmers; togs are what they are called in her native Queensland. If she'd lived in Victoria, Tasmania or WA they would have been called bathers.

Regional peculiarities are part of what used to define us as Australians; I'm not so sure if a lot of them are still in use as we become - slowly but surely - Americanised.

Do people still eat devon? The once-popular processed meat is called, variously, luncheon, fritz, stras, polony or bung, depending on your postcode.

Meanwhile the humble potato scallop brings interstate visitors undone all the time; I watched with some amusement a couple from northern NSW order six scallops from a fish and chippery in Tasmania and express great disappointment when their food arrived and proved to be filled with (you guessed it) scallops and not potato.

They should have ordered a potato cake down south. And don't get me started on beer; trying to decipher the size of a pony as opposed to a pot, pint, schooner, middy, foursie, handle, butcher or the rather prosaic but accurate "small glass" (in Melbourne) is enough to drive you to drink.

Our local bowlo now serves a schmiddy (apparently, at 350 ml, a cross between a schooner and a middy).

The English language is a dynamic living thing.

I'm sure other languages are also, but sadly my brain isn't wired for learning foreign grammar or vocabularies, unlike that of my best mate Mark who is fluent in Italian, French, German and can carry on a basic conversation in just about any other country you care to name.

He even speaks Latin. You either have a gift, or not. I'm flat out in my native tongue, frankly.

But I do know one thing: The proliferation of reality television shows, particularly those to do with home renovation, are responsible for a lot of changes to English in recent years.

Nowadays, you "swap out" one set of taps for another. You "upcycle" furniture. You "change out" light fittings or floor "treatments". It's odd that phrases are becoming longer, while individual words are shortened to within an inch (or should that be centimetre) of their lives.

A neighbour's friend owns a classic car, but the act of pronouncing its entire name - Mustang - is too onerous so he refers to it as his "Stang". Imagine all the energy he saves.

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