George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” (Yes, people, it is Shaw that said it, not Winston Churchill.)
Thanks to my travels through Scotland, England and Wales with my British friends, I speak fluent British. But even so I experience the occasional word that completely stumps me, such as “skew-wiff” (out of alignment) or “cagoule” (a thin, waterproof jacket) and I have to ask for an explanation.
I fared better in Canada, thanks to the kind people of Vancouver, Calgary, Banff, Halifax and Charlottetown who didn’t mind my questions. As far as I’ve discovered, Canadian English seems a lot closer to American English, but I still ran into trouble with “chesterfield” (sofa), “donair” (a type of sandwich) and “poutine” (french fries with cheese and gravy, a.k.a. 10 hours spent at the gym working it off).
About the differences between Australian English and American English, I can only guess, since I haven’t visited Australia yet (working on it) and my knowledge of Australian English mostly comes from novels. Does watching Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Eric Bana on TV count?
So here’s my idea: Maybe we could combine Canadian English, American English, Australian English and British English into one form, the Canamerausbrit language. Everybody would be able to understand everybody, and nobody would get confused when they were writing or speaking this common language.
But then again, maybe not. We’d have to change traffic signs, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, blogs, Web sites, snail mail, e-mail, text messaging, books, advertisements, TV broadcasts and much more. Too much hassle. Oh, well.
Besides, part of the fun of traveling is discovering what’s the same and what’s different, including the language. The other parts are the wondrous sights you see and the memorable people you meet.