R Displacement is the bane of my Australian existence. Worse than slimy bacon, boring cricket and crappy toilet layouts combined.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, no worries, mate, because ‘R Displacement’ is a phrase that I actually coined myself. Why? Because I needed a name for the thing that makes me feel mentally unstable during everyday conversations.

If you take a minute to think about it though, you might guess that I’m just talking about the fact that Australians don’t pronounce the letter R at the end of words. You’re only scratching the surface here.

You see, an accent refers to the distinctive pronunciation of a language usually distinguished by country. To be clear, by its definition, I’m okay with Australian accents. But R Displacement is something … different.

I’ll start from the beginning.

We all know that Australian’s don’t pronounce the letter R at the end of words. This is part of the reason so many of us are swept off our feet by the Australian accent.

  ‘Can you please pass the salt and peppah?’

  ‘Would you like buttah with yoh bread?’

  ‘Wheh did you paahk yoh cah?’

You get where I’m going. But have you ever heard this?

  ‘Today I made a smoothie with roar bah-nah-ners.’

That’s an Australian eating raw bananas.

So it’s not simply that Australians don’t pronounce the letter R at the end of words that end in R – it’s that they do pronounce the letter R at the end of words that don’t even have an R in them. Perhaps the greatest floor – I mean flaw – of all is that none of this pronunciation is consistent so you never know which words have the letter R and which ones don’t, which makes learning new words and decoding conversations very fucking difficult.

Like when your father-in-law tells you that the lovely pink and gray birds flying overhead are called Galahs, you instinctually think they’re called Galars because of the R Displacement trend. Years of exposure to Australian accents leads you to believe, without a second thought, that this is just one of those words in which the R has been removed by the sloppy Australian tongue.

So between the months of November and February, you go around pointing out Galars, and you think that every time someone repeats the word Galar in their charming Australian accent they are just confirming the sighting, but really they are trying to correct you. And then one day, you’re reading a book about hitchhiking in Australia, and the writer describes a pink and gray Galah flying overhead.

This is exceptionally frustrating because you, the writer extraordinaire, are the only one who sounds like an idiot. If you ask an Australian to say Galah and Galar out loud – you’ll get the same word and it will be the right one. So for all you know, there could be hundreds of Australians out there who think these birds are called Galars, but it’s a problem that will only ever show itself on paper.

So now you have to go around asking everyone to spell every new word and name that comes along because that’s the only way to get on the same page.

Think I’m exaggerating? You try figuring out who your brother-in-law has gone camping with when his friends are called Jarrod, Jared, and Gerard. Here’s a hint – the two names that you think sound the same are not the two that get pronounced the same. Yeah, think about that.

And yet, there are still some things that cannot even be clarified with spelling.

Which brings me to my number one grievance with the Australian language, a perplexing facet of Australian linguistics that causes me physical pain and unending mental torture.

Bought vs Brought

These are two different words with two different meanings. Australians recognize this. We all agree that to buy something is to purchase it, and that to bring something is transport it. But when it comes to past tense, all that goes out the window and for some reason, these two words are regularly interchanged in daily conversation and no one here even notices. It makes me want to spin my head around like the girl from the Exorcist.


  Your sister-in-law shows up for family dinner. ”Hey Tif, I bought this homemade cheesecake for dessert.”

You know it’s not Little Debbie, but you don’t know whether she bought a cheesecake that was made from scratch at a bakery or if she brought over a cheesecake she made herself.

  Then your mother-in-law responds, “Oh, I wish I knew that earlier when I brought groceries. I brought chocolate brownies that were on sale.”

Sometimes it’s easy enough to figure out what someone is trying to say, but sometimes you need to clarify. Did this come from your own kitchen, baked with love or did the unfriendly lady at the bakery make it. Because if it’s gross, I need to know whether or not I’m allowed to say it’s gross or if I need to pretend I like it.

Unfortunately in these situations, clarifying can be really hard to do without sounding like an asshole – especially if you’re a journo inquiring about language and grammar. Australians think you’re doing this thing called getting on your high horse when really you literally just want to know if something was purchased or transported – sometimes both.

Case in point:

Your brother-in-law finally arrives for family dinner.

  “I bought bait for the fishing trip tomorrow.”

To me, this statement says that he’s prepared for tomorrow’s trip by purchasing bait.

  “Well which freezah do you want me to put it in?”

Oh, what he really means is that he brought the bait with him to the family dinner, and he needs to put in the freezer right now.

You ask him why he didn’t put the bait in his own freezer.

  “My freezah doesn’t seem to be working propahly. I would have brought way more bait than this if was actually working.”

Wait, hold on. No. If your freezer and your Australian tongue were working properly dear little brother, you would have brought (transported) way less bait but you would have bought (purchased) way more.

Then your sister-in-law joins the conversation, and here we go again.

  “Hey guess what, I brought the new Star Wars movie!”

You prepare for a fight to break out. The idea here was to have a nice dinner and then watch a movie that we can all agree on.

  “You guys never let me pick movies to watch, so now I can watch it on my computer anytime I want!”

Oh, okay. So she actually just bought the movie in order to own it and did not bring it over with the intention of watching it during movie night.

The confusion is never-ending. Now, Alex thinks I’ve used too many examples here – he calls it “rabbiting on” – but this is what regular conversations are like for me sometimes: exhausting. These scenarios occur every damn day all the damn time. Everybody’s always bringing groceries at the store and buying things over to your house and sometimes you just don’t know what the hell is going on.

And it’s a problem that is very difficult to solve. It’s like being on the edge of sleep only to discover there’s a mosquito in the room. The room is dark and quiet until out of nowhere, a tiny, obnoxious serenade begins. Your husband can’t hear it though (in fact nobody else can hear it) because the performer has chosen your lonely ear as its stage. You lash out violently and hit yourself in the ear with a little too much force, and the sound stops – momentarily – but then it’s only a matter of time until the mosquito and its nails-on-a-chalkboard song will resume.

You have two choices: stay in bed, under the covers and keep swatting the thing away from your ear until it disappears long enough so that you can fall asleep and accept the risk that if it’s still alive, it’s going to eat your flesh in the night OR you can get out of bed, turn the light on, hunt it down and kill it. And then, you’ll be a murderah.

So those are your options. Quietly try to ignore the misuse of bought and brought at the risk of being slowly driven insane, or be the asshole who tries to eradicate the problem by shedding light on it in order to kill it.

As a lover of words and logic, my first instinct is to channel my inner Dexter, but it’s harder than it sounds. How do you fight for verbal justice without ‘getting on your high horse’ in a land of lazy tongued Aussies? I don’t actually know the answer.

That’s why there is yet another part to this linguistics discussion – I need a place safe place to vent. See You Next Tuesday ;-) I mean Monday.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Heidi Broome
    June 19, 2017 4:48 pm

    This was so great….the frustration will never go away!!

  • Girl! You made me laugh so hard! I am writing about being lost in translation, but I am getting lost because my first language is not English. You are writing about being lost in translation from English into English, which is even more hilarious! I loved it!


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