australian English

Skivvies of every colour

Our next guest post on the topic of Australian English comes from Charlotte Ellis. Charlotte lives in Oxford, UK and works as Marketing Executive at Macmillan Education.


In my four-year-old perception of the world I lived not far away from Ramsey Street. My mother would wistfully sigh at Neighbours over the ironing and point out ‘our kettle’ and ‘our park’ and ‘our shopping centre’. In my head my Dad probably worked in Lassiter’s with Paul Robinson.

It was something of a shock then to arrive at primary school and be informed we were in a northern English market town that had no direct relation in temperament or climate to Erinsborough.

My family are British but my parents worked in Melbourne for over 6 years and my middle sister and I were born out there. Both my older sisters were veritable little Aussies by the time we came back, and despite being too young to remember much of our life in Australia, my preschool years were infected by my sisters’ time there. After the initial shock at our actual location and the dreadful realisation I was probably never even going to meet Scott let alone marry him, I realised kids play much the same wherever they are.

The only sticking point was my rather exotic vocabulary that confused me as well as my friends. No one knew what I meant when I asked if I could borrow a texter (a humble felt-tip pen); I couldn’t understand why other families didn’t bring an Eski to sports day but a cool-box, and worst of all why people looked at me in horror when I said I had skivvies of every colour at my house. What 4-year-old was to know that an Australian skivvy (a polo-neck sweater) was miles away from the northern English interpretation – a maid.

Sadly I no longer wear skivvies or use texters on a daily basis so the need for my Aussie-learnt words has dwindled. They are still there though and when such a situation arises that they are uncovered after years of non-use they are normally met with derision. Now I keep these words to myself and use them as a short-cut button back to when I was tiny and Australian. And magically they conjure up the smell of eucalyptus, the sound of the kookaburras and the image
of Puffing Billy.

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Charlotte Ellis

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