Chuck a berko, sickie, wobbly…

Nick Kyrgios chucking a tennis racquet

Nick Kyrgios chucking a wobbly.

by Mark Gwynn

In Australian English the word chuck is often found in phrases where it means ‘to perform’, ‘to do’, or ‘to put on’— as in chuck a wobbly (a variant of the Standard English throw a wobbly). While this use of chuck is not exclusively Australian, there are a number of well-established forms that suggest its resonance in the national idiom. The earliest, dating from the 1940s, is chuck a willy (become angry; have a fit of annoyance or temper). Most other chuck expressions appear much later, from the 1970s on.

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Head like a robber’s dog

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Bill Sikes and his dog Bull’s-Eye. A reproduction of a c. 1870s photogravure illustration by Fred Barnard for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

by Mark Gwynn

The Australian expression to have a head like a robber’s dog means to be very ugly or unattractive. It is first recorded in the 1940s.

Horrie has a head on him like a ‘robber’s dog’ and was in all the trouble about the place, caused by playing shots over which he had no control. (Picton Post, 21 November 1946)

Several variations of this unflattering expression have been recorded over the years, including to have a head like a drover’s dog, to have a head like a beaten favourite, and to have a head like a half-sucked mango. In Frank Hardy’s The Yarns of Billy Borker (1965), the eponymous storyteller provides an insight into the phrase’s adaptability:

You always have a specific character in your stories. That’s because they’re true mate. Had a head on him like a burglar’s torch. A burglar’s torch? Yeh, a long thin neck and a round head. Every real character has a definite name and a head on him like something. I’ll tell this story my way, see. But if you tell it to someone else, you can use a different name and say his head was like something else: maybe a robber’s dog or a warped sandshoe.

As part of our continuing research into Australian English we would like to record more variations of the ‘to have a head like…’ idiom. If you know of any, please tell us. If you have found the idiom in a book, newspaper, blog (or other online source), we’d appreciate any source details you can provide.

 

Hills hoist: an Australian icon

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Image source: http://www.hillshome.com.au/heritage/

by Mark Gwynn

With recent news that Australian company Hills has sold the rights to its iconic Hills hoist clothesline, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the place this humble piece of suburban infrastructure has in Australian English.

The Hills hoist is a type of rotary clothes hoist invented by the South Australian Lance Hill in his Adelaide backyard in the mid-1940s. There were earlier versions and patents for similar hoists but it was Hill’s design, and the company he established, that would see the rotary clothes hoist introduced to backyards across Australia. The expansion of suburbia in Australia after the Second World War, a growing population, relatively large house blocks, and a sunny climate helped make the Hills hoist a household name. It was superior in every way to the old single clothesline strung across the yard and propped up by a stake. The compact design saved space, it was able to be raised and lowered easily, and it rotated to facilitate maximum drying and to allow the user to hang out the washing while standing in one spot. Continue reading

Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2016

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 democracy sausage* as our Word of the Year 2016.

imgres-3democracy sausage ‘a barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day’. In a year dominated by long election campaigns with acrimonious political debate and some surprising winners and losers, the fund-raising sausage sizzle run by volunteers at polling booths is a reassuring constant of Australian elections. Recently the election day sausage in bread has become known as a democracy sausage, presumably in recognition of its place in our political life. The use of the term (first recorded in 2012) increased significantly during the federal election in  2016, especially as a result of the popularity of several websites set up to help voters locate polling stations with sausage sizzles. The proliferation of the term on social media at this time helped establish the wider use of democracy sausage in the community. With fried onion and your choice of tomato or barbecue sauce, it may be the best thing to come out of an election this year.

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Words from our Word Box: update 17

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 team

This is our final 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.

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Sparrows, spadgers, spags, spoggies, spraggies, and spriggies

by Bruce Moore*

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is native to Europe and Asia, and it has been introduced to most other parts of the world. Although the house sparrow is the most widespread and abundant of birds, in the past twenty years there has been evidence of a decline in numbers in some areas, especially in western Europe, perhaps a result of a decline in insect numbers (food for sparrow nestlings) in urban areas.

images-1In the 1860s, the house sparrow was introduced to Australia, and spread widely, except in Western Australia. As in other parts of the world, there was been some anecdotal evidence of a decline in sparrow numbers in Australia. For example, in 2010 the Newcastle Herald ran an article titled ‘Where have the sparrows gone?’ (2 August).  Even so, in the 2015 ‘Aussie Backyard Bird Count’, the sparrow was the fifth most commonly sighted bird, after the rainbow lorikeet, noisy miner, Australian magpie, and sulphur-crested cockatoo. Continue reading

What do you think this is—bush week?

by Julia Robinson

From The Farmer and Settler, 13 February 1920. Image: Trove

From The Farmer and Settler, 13 February 1920. Image: Trove

The Bush Week project … is now nearing fruition. … There is to be a living display of the activities and products of every district of the State. Ample space will be provided in Centennial Park. Admission will be free, so that every city child, as well as its parents, will be able to get a glimpse of the wealth-producing industries of that wonderful interior of which all have heard, but which few, probably, have seen. (Queanbeyan Age, 4 July 1919)

The complete programme for ‘Bush Week’, which opens on February 9, is announced. It comprises an industrial street pageant through the city streets on the opening day, a four days’ exhibition in the Sydney Town Hall, displays in the shop windows, and in Martin Place and Moore-street, and a dramatic spectacle of bush life to be held for three days on the Sydney Sports Ground. (Sydney Morning Herald, 3 January 1920)

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Words from our Word Box: update 16

 

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 team

This is the third 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

Pash and dash to the white rose: Words from The Bachelor Australia, Season 3

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Richie Strahan and The Bachelor contestants

 

by Amanda Laugesen

Reality television is a regular contributor to our lexicon, and the most recent series of Australia’s favourite dating show, The Bachelor, was no exception. The Bachelor sees a number of women compete for the heart of an eligible bachelor through a series of ‘single’ and ‘group’ dates. At the end of each show, after a cocktail party, the Bachelor hands out red roses to all the women he wants to remain on the show. Continue reading

Words from our Word Box: update 15

by the ANDC team

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

This is the second 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