Once again, I’ve hit the 100 posts in a row streak! A said I should post about something special, but today was just a regular work day. I had an interesting conversation at lunch about language.
Michael mentioned that when he first came to Australia, he found the word “arvo” (as in “afternoon”) strange. I do remember being in primary school when I first heard that word, and Elise told me it was short for afternoon. Though I’ve never used it myself, I’ve never really thought about it either, and when I hear “arvo”, I just think “afternoon”, similar to how an Italian speaking person might hear “arriverderci” and think “goodbye” (not the word as such, but the sentiment). Michael thought that the way that Australians shorten words like that is a sign of laziness, but I disagreed, saying it’s more a sign of closeness, similar to using tu (informal “you”) compared to using vous (formal “you”) in French.
(Side note: As I only knew about tu at the time, when I was starting conversations with people through the Hello Talk app, one of the people I spoke to corrected me saying that as we had just met, I should be using vous. But he said that in this case, he was happy for me to be using tu with him. So I started thinking about when you transition – do you formally ask someone (I read the phrase is On peut se tutoyer? but some people are replying that it is not used very often)? Is it like having that “boyfriend / girlfriend” conversation when dating someone? Do you become tu-official on Facebook? I don’t remember ever having this conversation with Michael, but I started using tu with him as I didn’t know any better at the time. He uses tu in return, so I guess it’s OK.
Side side note: One of the other people I was speaking to specifically told me to use tu, as vous made him feel old (he was 19 according to his profile). Maybe it differs based on region? The first person was from Morocco, and the second person was from France. Some of the answers online say it’s different in Belgium compared to France and also Canada.)
Back to Australian-English. So Michael commented that it seems like most Australians must be friendly if everyone seems to use “arvo”. I think on the whole, most Australians are friendly by default. Even in formal office situations, at least in my experience, there hasn’t been a lot of stiff formality. It probably helps that our CIO used to wear shorts on hot days, and was a huge advocate of casual days.
I’ve noticed that the trend for me is to be pretty casual with people I first meet, and it’s only with people I don’t like, or if the situation is incredibly formal (e.g. an interview), that I will be formal. I just find it makes it so much easier to get things done when you don’t have a layer of formality over everything. That doesn’t apply to everything, of course, and if someone is formal towards me, I will adjust and do the same in return, but my default stance is to be casual with people.
I wonder if it blurs the boundary between acquaintances and friends – without an obvious language change like that, how do you know when you are close enough to someone to become their friend?
Actually, I have no idea how that happened with any of my current friends. I wonder if there was a friendship activation point. It’s not something that I distinctly remember. I thought maybe becoming Facebook friends is something, but I have a bunch of people that I met through conferences, or other events that I wouldn’t really call friends.
Maybe for me, it’s the email address point.
I currently have four email addresses that I regularly use: my personal email, my professional email, my friendly spam email, and my junk email.
My close friends have my personal email, complete with embarrassing moniker.
My professional email was initially created just for the purpose of sending out resumes, but when people at work have asked for my email address, I felt reluctant to give them my personal email address, so I started giving out this one instead.
However, I’ve found that there are some people who I don’t really have much of a desire to keep in touch with. So I’ve started giving out my friendly spam email address to co-workers. It’s my friendly spam email address because my actual junk email address has the word “junk” in it, and that’s pretty embarrassing to say to someone’s face.
It does get a bit awkward, when someone transitions from professional to close friend, especially if they meet a friend from another category and said friend organises something via email. Though maybe only creepy stalkers like me actually look at the email addresses in the To: field.