We'd been in Australia just over a week, having moved from the UK. This was in the 1980's, before the influx of Australian soaps and Kylie-mania to Britain, giving all teenagers an upward inflection at the end of their sentences. So I was not that familiar with Australian slang or the trend for shortening words wherever possible Having settled into our new rented ‘unit’ (flat, or apartment, to us), we invited our neighbours round for a drink, to say hello. Steve and Claire were a lovely couple and keen that we should swiftly get in to the local way of life, and understand Australian culture. I was in the kitchen, getting some snacks, when I heard Steve say to my husband "Tell you what mate, you wouldn't want to leave any windows or doors open in the evening here. That's a surefire way to get Aussies coming in." "Really?" "For sure mate. They see the lights on, and that's it, no stopping them. And once he's in, especially at night, you'll never get rid of the little bugger.' I came through to the living room, incredulous at what I was hearing. I knew the Australian male had a reputation for being sociable and laid back, but honestly.... Claire glanced up and seeing my expression, said: “Oh, don’t worry, it’s not that terrible. In fact, I’ve got some stuff I’ll let you have, which will get rid of them, no trouble.” I opened my mouth to speak, closed it again, because I couldn’t think of what to say. Then, as I opened it again, ready to tell Steve and Claire just what I would do to these gatecrashers, Steve laughed and said: “Tell you what Marie, if you keep opening and closing your gob like that, those little Mozzies might just think they’ve found a nice warm nest for the night.”
Suddenly, it all clicked. Not “Aussies” - “Mozzies” The Australian word for mosquitoes. Shamefacedly, I had to admit what I thought I’d heard from the kitchen. It took me a long time to live that one down, and I got used to Steve and Claire introducing us to new people as’ Rob and Marie, who needed an Aussie phrasebook when they first arrived Down under.’
Mind you, that little faux pas was insignificant compared to a few months later, when I got a job in a shop, and was asked to put up a poster in the window, using sticky Durex ...
I knew, of course I knew!
(Durex is the brand name for Sellotape in Australia)