Slice of Life Story Challenge March 10 A Subtle Difference in Terminology

Being Monday, I visited my favourite coffee haunt, Modi Café in Main Street. I do a lot of thinking while I’m there. I also drink coffee, read, write and converse. Today I was thinking…

It’s interesting how we Australians use the term ‘In Main Street.’  My American friends tend to say ‘On Main Street.’ It’s a subtle difference in terminology.

During my six years in the U.S. I was always trying to adjust my use of terminology to suit the situation. Sometimes I inadvertently created confusion, by using a different term. It was interesting to observe the look on people’s faces. I recall telling a teacher I had left some handouts for her in her pigeon hole and she gave me a most horrified look. I quickly revised my terminology and added,- mailbox. ‘Oh, yes.’ She said, looking somewhat relieved.

Australians use the term, ‘take away.’  In America I got used to hearing the term ‘take out.’ We Aussies ‘stand in a line –or a queue.’ In America I learned to get ‘on line.’

I feel a list coming on here:

American schools have hallways.
Australian schools have corridors.
Americans walk to the right
Australians walk to the left
Americans gone on vacation
Australians go on holidays
American say closet
Australians say cupboard
Americans say Weed-Whacker
Australians say Whipper-Snipper
Americans say Check Please
Australians say Bill please
Americans check items on a list
Australians tick items on a list
Americans end a sentence with a period
Australians end a sentence with a full stop
Americans say mail box
Australians say pigeon hole
Americans say flip flops
Australians say thongs
American s say SUV
Australians say 4 wheel drive
Americans say downtown
Australians say CBD
Americans say frosting
Australians say icing
Americans say cookies
Australians say bikkies(biscuits)

I’m sure there are others. These subtle differences keep us alert.  Language is a fascinating and pliable thing. We bend it to suit our needs. In some ways this slice is a travel alert for those moving in either direction.


  1. This brought back memories of my time in the US too. I remember the toilet water in the bowl being so high and swirling not flushing down and the light switches flicking up not down. Everything seemed topsy turvy, even the glad wrap you pull up against the blade not down. Great list. :)

  2. Yes, there are some subtle differences. One I remember was porridge instead of oatmeal. I didn't know if I wanted to order porridge. I thought it would be something a little runny, not my idea of oatmeal. As I recall, I selected a different item from the menu.

  3. Oh dear,
    I am so glad you told me the differences. I was about to tell you about the mistake in your first sentence. It should be on Main Street, not in Main Street.
    However, now I see what you said if acceptable. My view of language is so limited. having only lived in The United States.
    Thank you so much for helping me learn new words and expresssions.
    All the best,
    Love Pooh
    (mmy typist, Mrs. Hodges is having porridge for breakfast today. She grew up in Canada, and uses some of the same words.)

  4. I like the whipper-snipper so much better than a weed whacker! This was a fun post to read!

  5. Language is so much fun, isn't it! I grew up in Northeastern part of the US, and I've always said "waiting in line." Then, when I lived in New York City, everybody said "waiting on line" and I could never get used to it, even after 10 years!


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