Reporters on the Job

Mastering Strine: Australia is an English-speaking country. But as Asia editor Ben Arnoldy learned while on assignment there, native speakers in the Land of Oz offer certain variations on American standard English.

Moments after stepping off the plane, Ben attempted to set up a mobile phone he was renting. "I was told to call a phone number that connected me to an automated voice system. A perky Australian voice asked me for credit card details:

" 'Visa, MasterCard, or American Express?'

" 'MasterCard' I said.

" 'I'm sorry,' came the reply, 'I don't understand what you said.'

"So I repeated myself, a little louder and more clearly. I was surprised when the voice came back and said again that she didn't understand. Finally it hit me that I needed to change my accent.

" 'Maaa-stah-cahhhd.'"

Problem solved.

While he reported today's story about Australia's 15-year economic boom, Ben didn't have any further challenges with the accent. But he learned a new idiom or two. "My favorite is 'furphy,' a noun meaning a false report or rumor. Occasionally during interviews, people will say, 'That's a bit of a furphy, really.' Which is a pleasant-sounding way of saying you've got it wrong.

Sheraton Hotel Fined: Mexico City officials have fined the US-owned hotel $15,000 for "discriminating" against 16 Cuban officials, the BBC said. As reported on March 3, "Mexican hotel 'reopens' after US-Cuban spat," the Maria Isabel Sheraton evicted the Cubans to comply with a US law against doing business with Cuba.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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