Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Plain English Hard to Fathom

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Plain English Hard to Fathom

Article excerpt

ON Australia Day this year that other newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, published a list of things that tell us we are Australian.

You know you are Australian, it told us, if you know the meaning of "girt" or if you think it's normal to have a leader called Kevin. Real Australians also understand that "you" has a plural and that it's "youse".

There was this great list of 43 such diagnostic Australian things. Number 15 was that you think that "Woolloomooloo" is a perfectly reasonable name for a place.

So - fast forward to about two weeks ago.

I'm standing in a queue at a railway station ticket office near Henry XIII's Hampton Court Palace - as you do.

My wife and I are heading into London for a romantic visit to Harrods Food Hall - as you also do, as long as the credit card is still viable and you've preloaded yourself with indigestion tablets.

In front of me in the queue is a bloke with a back-pack and a faraway look. He's obviously going to hit the museums and a London pub or three.

I then hear him ask for his ticket, "Single ticket to Woolloomooloo, please".

I immediately know I happen to be in close proximity to a fellow Australian ... This is quickly confirmed by his retraction of the request made to a perfectly normal middle-aged ticket clerk with thick glasses and a puzzled look. "Oh, s***t", he says, "I mean Watermooloo ..."

I notice that the clerk is still not sure how much this will cost or to which airport the customer should be redirected.

Being the holder of dual nationality, born not a spit and a cough away from the Palace, and also knowing my Sydney suburbs, I am ideally positioned to be of assistance.

"I think he means Waterloo," I helpfully tell the clerk. She smiles that tired smile that underpaid rail transport employees reserve for world travellers and women carrying young babies. …

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