William Steed writes:
ABC’s Jane Cowan ran into some accent issues in Alabama, USA. She also discovered the joy of discussing language differences in a new place. Discussing and laughing together over different words and pronunciations is a great way to break the ice in a new place. Everyone can find something that’s distinctive about how they speak where they’re from – a word, a particular way of saying something or odd sayings.
I’m reminded of Kris Marshall’s Colin Frissel in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually. In England, he’s overlooked and ignored by women, but in the (exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness) Wisconsin bar he wanders into, his accent is what lands him a quartet of Hollywood-attractive American women. They coo over how he says everyday words like ‘bottle’. Unrealistic as the situation is, it’s a reminder that everyone’s accent is exotic when taken to another place.
In my experience, when it comes to Australian-American accent and word misunderstandings, Australians fare pretty well. Most Australians are exposed to a lot of American popular culture for most of their lives, so even if we don’t use American-style words (cookie, flashlight, sidewalk, flip-flops, etc.), we understand them. Americans don’t usually have that exposure in return, so when we tell them that we went out in our thongs to get the torch from the boot, they can be forgiven the confused look, and you have a fun point of discussion.