Of Thongs and flip-flops

Recently I spend some time with Australians and terms like “bloke” and “mate” are rolling off my tongue with ease.  I learned a few bad words, too, well not too bad, like wanker, which is used pretty broadly for annoying guys who are full of themselves.

Flip flops, thongs or both?

The most fun I had, though, with Australian English was over footwear and this is how the story unfolded: I was with a group of people in business wear and the plan was to walk from here to there, with “there” being a ways away.  One of the ladies considering the distance said something along the lines of  “I am just going to slip into my thongs.”  Now in the US thongs describe a certain kind of underwear, namely the one that has but a string or very narrow strip of fabric on the backside which runs between the buttocks.  Now, even if she would consider thongs a better choice of underwear for a bit of a walk then whatever she was wearing, the mere idea of mentioning this to a mixed group is shocking in the US.  Since I am not American I am not that easily shocked by risky underthings – but I was a little puzzled.

Well, turns out that thongs are to Australians what flip-flops are to Americans:  comfy flat shoes worn on or to the beach.  It took us a bit to sort this out but ever since I enjoy casually mentioning something along the lines of “just quickly slipping on my thongs” or saying “did you see that bloke (guy) over there in the thongs?” and getting really confused looks from people.

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