Election 2016: our pick of the words

by Julia Robinson

Greens, Labor, or Coalition?

Greens, Labor, or Coalition?

We are days away from a Federal election brought on by a double dissolution of parliament – the first double dissolution in 29 years. At eight weeks it is unusually long; many voters would say unusually painful. Political parties in campaign mode are not Australia’s favourite thing, unless someone is pork-barrelling in our electorate. However the length of the campaign allows all candidates more time to express themselves, more time to impress us with their rhetoric, and more time to mangle the language. Those of us with an interest in Australian English are the winners.

The language we’ve heard in this election campaign is a mix of old and new. The political slogans, putdowns, and free character assessments include some well-known Australian words, some that have been updated or modified for the current election, and some brand-new terms modelled on the old. Here is our pick of election-related words and phrases. Continue reading

The Australian Comic Dictionary

 

comic dict

by Mark Gwynn

In 1916 a lexicon entitled The Australian Comic Dictionary of Words and Phrases was published in Melbourne by E.W. Cole. The author was one ‘Turner O. Lingo’, a nom de plume for writer Mary Eliza Fullerton. The volume runs to 64 pages and includes over 600 entries with their definitions arranged (roughly) alphabetically from Z to A to reflect the ‘Antipodean’ nature of the work. This dictionary is a milestone in lexicography: it is the first Australian dictionary written by a woman, and the first comic dictionary of Australianisms. Continue reading

The story of ‘Anzac’

by Bruce Moore

What's their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

What’s their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who is currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. The following is an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (published by Oxford University Press Australia, 2010).

Anzac is a central word in the expression of Australian attitudes and values, and it carries its history more overtly than any other Australian word. It had humble beginnings: it is an acronym formed from the initial letters of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, originally used as a telegraphic code name for the Corps when it was in Egypt in 1915, just prior to the landing at Gallipoli. It first appears in writing in the Australian war historian C.E.W. Bean’s Diary on 25 April 1915: ‘Col. Knox to Anzac. “Ammunition required at once.”’1 Two weeks later Bean writes: ‘Anzac has become the sort of code word for the Army Corps’ (6 May).2 It was eventually to become ‘a sort of code word’ for Australia and its beliefs and values. Continue reading

Words from our Word Box: update 14

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

by the ANDC staff

This is the first update for 2016 on contributions to our Word Box, the website feature you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow us to identify new material for our archive of Australian words, and also for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries. We encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image to the left to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below; some are new to us, and some we already know. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words, and look forward to your contributions to Word Box. Continue reading

Shelah’s Day and the origin of sheila

by Bruce Moore

Lexicographer Bruce Moore is editor of the forthcoming (2016) second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, a historical dictionary that tells the story of Australian English. It contains the  Australian National Dictionary Centre’s latest research into Australian words, and this blog illustrates the kind of research undertaken for the dictionary, in a new investigation of the history of a well-known word.

Sheila in the sense ‘a woman, a girl’ became established in Australian English towards the end of the nineteenth century. By the end of the twentieth century it had become a fairly problematic term, mainly as a result of being burdened with many negative and derogatory male attitudes towards women. The pejorative connotations are present in such compounds as sheila talk for ‘trivial gossip’, or in such uses as football coaches berating their teams for ‘playing like a bunch of sheilas’. Continue reading

Loud, incessant, and indescribable: cicadas and their names

by Julia Robinson

‘Equally annoying with the dust was the loud, incessant, and indescribable noise of myriads of large and curious winged insects, commonly and incorrectly called locusts, but which are totally different from any kind of locusts I ever saw.’ (Mrs C. Meredith, Notes and Sketches of New South Wales, 1844)

In early summer I enjoyed a weekend walk with friends on a favourite walking trail on the edge of suburban Canberra. On our way back we paused in a pocket of bush where cicadas in their hundreds were clustered thickly on tree trunks. The air was full of their noise, and a single kestrel looked on from a high branch, considering its next mouthful at the insect buffet.

Greengrocer. Source: Trudyro at English Wikipedia

Greengrocer

Continue reading

Two bob each way: money in Australian English

 by Mark Gwynn

14 February 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of decimal currency in Australia when pounds, shillings, and pence were replaced with dollars and cents. While various names were proposed for the new currency including austral, digger, dinkum, roo, and royal, it was the prosaic dollar that won the day. In this article I look at some of the colloquial terms in Australian English that refer to particular coins and banknotes.*

Australian decimal banknotes including the pineapple, lobster, blue swimmer, and prawn

Australian decimal banknotes including the pineapple, lobster, blue swimmer, and prawn

If you had a pineapple, added a lobster, two blue swimmers, and two prawns, what would you get? A grey nurse, of course! While this equation may look like a seafood recipe, these are actually Australian slang terms for banknotes. There is a good chance that you have not heard of them because they don’t appear to be in common use, although we have some evidence for them from the 1980s. The terms allude to the colour of the banknotes: the $50 note is yellow (a pineapple), the $20 note is red (a lobster), the $10 note is blue (a blue swimmer, a type of crab), and the $5 note is pink (a prawn). The $100 note is currently green, but between 1984 and 1996 it was grey, and was called a grey nurse (a type of shark). While terms for our decimal banknotes do not have a strong hold in the Australian vernacular, the pre-decimal currency did produce words and idioms that were well-known in Australian English in years past. Continue reading

Australian words for the backside: a light-hearted look

by Mark Gwynn

As a kid I was often told by my dad to ‘get off my date’ when he wanted me to get off the lounge and go outside, or to help with some chore. I was surprised to discover many years later, when I started working at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, that date was not a coinage of my dad’s but an established word in Australian English, meaning ‘anus’. Further exposure to Australian English at the ANDC revealed a number of colloquial terms with the same or a similar meaning. Continue reading

Words from our Word Box: update 13

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

by the ANDC staff

This is the final update for 2015 on contributions to our Word Box, the website feature you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow us to identify new material for our archive of Australian words, and also for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries. We encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image to the left to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below; some are new to us, and some we already know. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words, and look forward to your contributions to Word Box.

dogfood

dogfood – (of a company’s staff) to use a product or service developed by the company before it is commercially available. Also found in the nominal form dogfooding and in the phrase to eat one’s own dogfood. The phrasal form is found in the 1980s and came to prominence in the computer software sector in the 1990s. The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may derive from US advertisements for Alpo dog food, in which the spokesperson refers to feeding the product to his own dogs.

Continue reading

Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2015

Each year the ANDC selects a Word of the Year. The words chosen for the shortlist are not necessarily new, or exclusively Australian, but are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year. This year we have selected the term sharing economy as our Word of the Year 2015.

uber:taxisharing economy ‘an economic system based on sharing of access to goods, resources, and services, typically by means of the Internet’. This term grew in significance and frequency of use in Australia in 2015. This was partly due to the impact of debates around the introduction of ridesharing service Uber into Australia, which has been seen as a threat to the taxi industry. The sharing economy is facilitated by online technology, and while it is most often associated with ridesharing and accommodation sharing apps, it can also include collaborative efforts such as crowdfunding. The term has ‘feel-good’ connotations in emphasising sharing, and some regard it as a positive good for society. However, others have pointed to its corporate dimensions, and its potential to displace industries and businesses. Continue reading