Australian Language Study Examines Scallops, Togs And Icy Poles

20/11/2015 1:37 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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USA, California, Laguna Beach, Father playing football on beach with his three sons (6-7, 10-11, 14-15)

When you go to the beach, do you wear board shorts, togs or swimmers? At lunch, do you eat a potato cake or a scallop? And do you cool down with an ice block, an icy pole or a popsicle?

These are the eternal questions Australians have dealt with for generations. Who's right?

Well, it all comes down to where you live.

The Linguistics Roadshow, presented by researchers from the University of Melbourne, has been visiting schools teaching students about regional dialects through an "interactive showcase about the science of language".

The program has also been running a survey to find out how location determines slang.

Questions include: 'What do you call a barbecued sausage, served in a single slice of bread?'; 'Which of these would you use to describe kissing someone: get with, mac on, etc'; 'What do you call the place where you might buy lunch at school?'.

With thousands of submissions already, their results have been summed up by every reader as thus: "everyone in my city is right and everyone else is totally wrong."

"We created this survey to show how Australian English varies around the country through lexical choice.

"It mostly varies by region, but some of the maps look strange. They're not always clearly divided by region," said Katie Jepson, one of the Roadshow "roadies" and a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

"We’re surprised about some of the variations we see, especially when Queensland patterns sit with Victoria but not NSW.

"It's interesting where WA seems to match -- sometimes Adelaide, sometimes Victoria."

The results around food seem the most hotly-contested. 'Potato cake' is the term of choice in Victoria, while 'scallop' is the favoured choice on the rest of the east coast.

A mini-storm erupted on Thursday when the results for the most popular name for barbecued sausage, served in a single slice of bread were discovered online (seriously, here are the results for "sausage in bread" on Twitter, there's a lot of confusion).

Jepson said the controversies around language were to be expected.

"People are very aware of this thing and do want to identify themselves as being from a particular location," she said.

"Once people start talking about the results, they say “oh my gosh how can you call it that?” but subconsciously, the maps show what people are thinking."

"There are lots of words for different things, but why the words change and the patterns, we're not sure how they got so split in the first place."

She identified settlement patterns, immigration, regional identity and even marketing campaigns as factors influencing the terms given to certain items.

Jepson said the roadshow aimed to expand and reach more school children. The survey is still available to complete online here, if you want to add your opinion to the debates.

For the rest of the maps, click here.

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