Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Misunderstanding #1

The toilet - AKA  the loo, porcelain throne, dunny... or potty

When the Faery began attending preschool over here, there was much excitement. At the time, we were still waiting for our container of belongings to arrive. Although we decided not to bring all of our treasures - and got rid of a lot of things before The Big Move - the one room which had every item packed for shipping was the Faery's. I figured that whatever she'd outgrown, would be used again for Miss Pie.

So we waved goodbye to the big truck, and six crazy weeks raced by. Six crazy weeks of staying in various places, saying goodbye to our friends and family, a fourteen-hour flight, living in a hotel room (all four of us!) and looking for our own place to rent. By the time we'd settled in to our apartment, the Faery was well and truly over living out of just the one small suitcase of her favourite toys and books. She was over having no play mates. She was gagging for preschool, and we were lucky to find a great one, close to home.

After she'd been going for a week or two, we were walking home one day and she shared with me, "Mum, in America, when children want to go to the toilet, they say 'I want to go party'."

I had to stop and think about that one. 

Then it came to me: 

- Firstly, for some reason, American kids don't say toilet. They say potty, whereas in Australia, a potty is strictly the smaller, mobile, plastic version used for purposes of toilet-training kids. Potty-training, if you're American. Go potty = go to the toilet.

- Secondly, the way Australians say party, and the way Americans say potty? They sound exactly the same. Either way, it's /pɑːti / 

(Unless you're from New Jersey. Then, it'd probably be /pɔːwt/ ...sorry - years spent as an English language teacher mean I can't help myself at times, and the nerd in me rears her head when phonetics are involved. I have so little need for them these days.)

Anyhow, that was one of the Faery's introductions to toilet lingo in the US. Between myself, J and the Faery, we've each had some misunderstandings - some awkward, and some funny - so I will try to share them here from time to time.

And speaking of toilets, I am still getting used to the American ones. Something about the wider bowl and the closer proximity of - ahem - contents to the surface. Turning around to flush, there seems to be much more on view than I really want to see...


  1. Ha! Noddy loves "Potty Time With Bear" and he used to ask me when he could go to the "party". Because his Dad is American, he says some words with an American accent anyway but it is funny that Freya has noticed the same thing.

    I love New Jersey accents. And it is cool that someone else is equally interested in phonetics.

  2. That's cute! I also have friends (a couple) where one is Australian and the other is American - it was so interesting to watch how their kids' accents developed with little mixed quirks of both worlds. They, too, made The Big Move the year before us, and now their kids have total American accents. They are adorable.

    I had to learn phonetics for work. It was a steep learning curve and I struggled - until one day I had the bright idea of writing out my shopping lists in phonetics. Didn't take long after that!

  3. Yeah, no toilet in the States. After potty, it's bathroom. Where people go to "freshen up" - ha!

    And yes! The toilet water is waaaay too high there. Freaky.

  4. We've been looking at some other apartments lately. One of the agents referred to the toilet as the 'powder room'. Really?

    Restroom, powder room... I get the feeling Americans love euphemisms.