9

This year I will sit the FCE, a British English exam. I don't know if I should use word meanings that aren't in British vocabulary but are common in other countries.

For instance, the word "grouse". In informal Australian English, it's a synonym for "good, excellent", which is great. However, in the Cambridge Dictionary (British English), it means "to complain" or "a fat bird that is hunted or its meat".

What do you think? Thanks.

3
  • 4
    When I did my FCE I tried to use "normal English words", did not really think about if they are American English or British or other ones. Having said that, FCE is literally "First" certificate in English. I don't feel trying to achieve your first certificate is the right place to flex with your one Australian slang word. You will impress no-one and you can even embarrass yourself. Stay humble, even if you excel, your achievement would be only that you can speak the same language as the other 360 million people on the planet. And most of them will not be impressed. – Petr Chloupek Apr 6 at 13:01
  • 2
    Where did you hear about "grouse" being used to mean "good or excellent"? As an Australian, I've never heard it used that way; it's possible that it's slang that's limited to one or two cities, or that it's archaic slang that's no longer used. I'm familiar with the "to complain" meaning though, and I've heard of birds called grouses even if they don't live here. – nick012000 Apr 7 at 4:24
  • 1
    @nick012000 - Also Australian and have definitely heard grouse used to mean good or excellent in Sydney and westwards. Mostly (always?) ironically as it is an older and very out of fashion slang. – w477zy Apr 7 at 6:52
27

FCE is a test of standard and formal English, suitable for academic or business use. It also tests your ability to use less formal English, for example in a letter to a friend or a magazine article.

You should not be using language that is inappropriate to this context. This means that slang need not be used. British slang: The daft bloke was totally plastered would be equally inappropriate to an academic context to Australian and American slang, and not recognising the different registers and dialects in English is a weakness that can lose you marks.

So, no, "grouse" should not be used unless you are referring to the gamebird.

15
  • 4
    Erm this is just not the case. FCE tests users formal and informal English. It is not purely a test of academic and business English either. Candidates may have to write informal letters (where they will be penalised for using formal English) and, for example, may encounter informal idioms in the use of English, have to write an article for a magazine (in semi-informal style), or write a story (which will often require very informal style). Please edit so I can upvote you!. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 6 at 11:21
  • 11
    As a native BrE speaker I am surprised by all the remarks about "grouse" being an uncommon word for "complain". Most people in the UK have probably never seen the bird called a grouse, never eaten one, and certainly never "hunted" one. OTOH "grouse" is a fairly common synonym for "grumble". – alephzero Apr 6 at 11:32
  • 4
    @alephzero As a native BrE speaker... I have most definitely heard of grouses and have never heard it used in the context of grumbling (nor indeed have I heard the AusE meaning) – Nick Apr 6 at 11:33
  • 2
    @Nick As another, I hear it all the time! Maybe the people you know are too friendly to be grousy! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 6 at 11:44
  • 2
    @JamesK They certainly won't test you on those, no! But I reckon you'd get extra marks for using "plastered" in the right context in either a magazine article or a story! I think very regional-specific language like *grouse*=excellent is definitely a bad idea. I don't think many British or American FCE examiners would be familiar with t and would just regard it as a mistake! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 6 at 12:20
13

You would have to look up the marking criteria for the exam, if they are available. But unless you specifically know that it's OK, it seems unwise to use Australian or other non-British colloquialisms in a British English exam. Are the examiners based in the UK? Most British people would probably be unaware of the meaning of "grouse" in Australia.

2
  • 11
    As a speaker of British English I both agree with this answer, and confirm that I am familiar with both the British-English meanings of "grouse", but not the Australian-English meaning. The "to complain" meaning is rare in British English, but I've heard it used in Indian English. – William Smith Apr 5 at 23:41
  • 4
    thirding the fact that British speakers are generally unaware of the Australian sense. The "complain" sense is unusual here, but I'd certainly understand it. It would seem quite informal for this exam though – Tristan Apr 6 at 10:36
4

"Grouse" is other than informal, for the Australian meaning you give. Outside of its circle of use, it's virtually unknown. Most Brits would only associate it with the well-known game bird.

Therefore it would be inappropriate to use in formal or business English, in Britain. "Gripe" on the other hand, is informal, and well-known. To gripe (verb) or to have a gripe (noun) would be totally acceptable in a test of informal English as it's in common usage and would be practical for communication.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.