Monday, June 30, 2008

What's in a name? In Australia, not much...

When you first arrive in a new place, never mind a new country, you will begin to meet tons of new people you've never met before. Lucky for me when I first arrived in Australia I knew the Handsome Australian, but pretty much everyone else was a stranger to me. This of course meant lots of introductions.

First and most important were my introductions to the Handsome Australian's family. While the Handsome Australian was born and raised in Australia, his parents actually immigrated here from Lebanon some years prior to his birth. Yes, the plot thickens...So not only was I dealing with adapting to the Australian culture, but I had to take a crash course in the Lebanese culture as well. I would say the Handsome Australian's family were very assimilated in their adopted homeland by the time I met them, but there were many Lebanese traditions, values and beliefs that they still held very dear.

The Handsome Australian took me home to meet his parents and family on my second night in Australia. I think they were all intrigued to see what I'd be like--this American girl the Handsome Australian had met in Argentina of all places who'd come all this way to be with their son/brother. I wasn't sure what to expect myself. It's always a bit nerve racking meeting your new boyfriend's parents, but because of our situation, this particular meeting seemed more intense.

When we got to his house, his parents were both in the kitchen preparing dinner and his various brothers were in different rooms studying or watching TV. They were all very warm and welcoming to me. I felt at home in their house almost immediately. When the Handsome Australian introduced me to them he said, "So everyone this is Catherine*." And he went through and named his parents and all his siblings. They all greeted me with a kiss on the cheek which is an Australian way to greet friends and family and would have seemed completely odd to me had I not just spent a year in Buenos Aires where the custom was very much the same.

And then it began....His father said, "Cathy what will you have to drink?" and I was thinking, Poor guy, he didn't hear my name properly and he's calling me Cathy. Instead of correcting him, I just went with it and told him what I'd have to drink. Then one of his brothers said, "So Cathy how are you finding Australia?" Again, I'm thinking, Wow this family really must have a hearing problem--I know the Handsome Australian said my full name as Catherine but they all keep calling me Cathy--or maybe they just really feel like they know me. I proceeded to answer his question and still didn't correct him on my name. Didn't want to create too many waves on my first night. I was trying to make a good impression after all.

The night carried on and things went smoothly. We were all getting along quite well, but as the night wore on, my name kept changing. As they got to know me a bit better I wasn't Cathy any more it was, "Hey Cath would you like some more wine?" My name had metamorphosed through the evening and was getting shorter and shorter by the minute. It was bizarre.

A few days later I went to meet the Handsome Australian's mates (that's Aussie for friends--but you already knew that didn't you?) down at the local Cricket club. Now Cricket players in Australia aren't known for their intellectual abilities and quite a few of these guys were a bit rough and ready, but they were friendly just the same. Again we went through the introductions, "Guys I'd like you to meet Catherine." Then as they introduced themselves to me, it went something like this, "G'day Catie, how ya goin'? I'm Haydo good to meet ya." Um, did he just call me Catie??? And what kind of name is Haydo anyway? Everyone at the Cricket club had different versions of my name--to some I was Catie, some Cath, some Cathy, some Caz, but no one called me Catherine. No one.

I'd never really had a nick name before and I wasn't that keen on the shortened versions of my name either, but it wasn't something it seemed like I had any control over. The Australians love to shorten everything, particularly names. Turns out Haydo is short for Hayden.

Names don't get shortened willy nilly either, there aren't any hard and fast rules, but there are some guidelines that are loosely followed:

Names with an "r" somewhere in the middle will have the "r" substituted for a double "z" and an "a" added to the end. Confused? I know, it sounds bizarre, but it's not that hard once you get the hang of it. Let's take Sharon for example, "Sharon" (a perfectly respectful name) becomes "Shazza" (respectful name taking a walk on the wild side). Now people that know Sharon really well will even drop the end of "Shazza" and simply call her "Shaz". "Shaz" sounds like an unusual name if you're just meeting someone, but really it's just run of the mill "Sharon".

The same rings true for "Barry"--it becomes "Bazza" or "Baz". Harry becomes "Hazza" or "Haz", Lauren becomes "Lozza" or "Loz". Warren becomes "Wazza" or "Waz".

Other common names will be shortened or changed by adding an "o" to the end. For example, "Dave" becomes "Davo". "Steve" becomes "Stevo".

The "ie" ending is pretty popular as well, although it sees more use with every day words such as breakfast, which becomes "brekkie" or biscuit which becomes "bickie".

Call them casual, call them laid back, call them lazy, call them creative, call them colourful (that's Aussie for colorful), but whatever you do, just don't call an Aussie by their proper name. And be prepared, because once you set foot in the country, your name will never be the same again either!

Learn the Lingo
bickie (short for biscuit)=cookie

*Note: My name isn't really Catherine, Cathy, Cath, or Caz, but I'm used to having a different moniker now that I live in Oz.


Annelise said...

At first I thought your man had intorduced you by the wrong name, but then I realized it was a pen name. Well Cathy, Cath, Catherine...I thought you would at least you Kathleen. Or is that the name of your sister?

aschulke said...

What fun! If only you'd been writing before we came to visit! One note - am I supposed to back Carlton or Collingwood? :)

Rita said...

This is brilliant Chica! I love reading about how foreign people (yes you are a foreigner!) survive Australia. You could write the next Lonely Planet Australian Edition except change the title to, "The survival guide to Australian Dropbears and other fascinating adventures." I tell you it would be a best seller!

If you like Pioneer Woman (she is hilarious I know!) you must check out, she is right there with our sense of humour, dry unexpected and questionable. A riot I tell you! She writes about her daughter a lot as if she is writing her a letter. It is a must read, maybe it is something you could do for Miss S :)

Keep it up, I will be back for more!!!

trish said...

I am so glad I was not the only one thrown for a loop with the pseudonym. I even had to go back and check to make sure I had followed the right link. Then I started questioning middle names and thinking I was getting old and my memory had failed me.