Digital Tools II: Analyzing the first use of Australian words

by Sarah Ogilvie

Here is another digital tool which analyzes the first time Australian words were used in print (cf. our previous blog about mining Australian sources). This graph shows the dates of first quotations for all the words in the Australian National Dictionary. Hover over any point along the graph and you are given the date and number of first quotations from that year.

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Digital Tools: Mining Australian Sources

by Sarah Ogilvie

Over the past few months here at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, we have been developing several digital tools for mining the content of the Australian National Dictionary, the definitive historical dictionary of Australian English. One tool analyzes the quotations in the dictionary that are used to exemplify a word’s use over time, and provides an interesting perspective on the history of publishing in Australia and an insight into the kinds of Australian words these publications contributed to our lexicon. Hence, this tool is a useful resource for everyone interested in Australian literature and language, especially Australian book historians and scholars of the history of Australian English.

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A History of Murmuration

This may not be an Australianism, but some words still deserve comment and ‘murmuration’ is one of them. A ‘murmuration’ is a flock of starlings. It is a very old word which existed in Middle English, died out in the 15th Century, but was revitalised by W.H. Auden in the early 20th Century. It originally comes from Middle French and Latin ‘murmuration’ meaning ‘grumbling’. ‘Murmuration’ always reminds me of the OED, simply because after work in Autumn a small group of us would follow one of the editors, Juliet Field, to near-by Port Meadow on the outskirts of Oxford to watch the starlings’ awe-inspiring formations. If you’ve never seen a murmuration of starlings, and witnessed the fantastic patterns they form in the autumnal sky, check out this video:

A History of Vegemite

We all eat it but do we know its history? Vegemite was created by Melbourne-based food technologist Cyril Callister (1893-1949) in 1923. Although a similar spread made from concentrated yeast extract, Marmite, was available in England, no one knew its recipe so Callister created Vegemite from scratch.  He worked for Fred Walker’s small food company and specialized in methods to preserve cheese using yeast (Walkers was bought by Kraft in 1926 and Callister became their Chief Chemist). Continue reading

Dictionary Dogs

Because dictionaries are too good to waste on cats and humans.

Ozworder Harriet. Specialism: Fashion. Barking mad on: houndstooth, 'a design of broken check; a fabric of this design' 1st recorded in New York in 1936

Ozworder Hap. Specialism: Libraries & Latin. Barking mad on: carrel, 'a private kennel provided in a library for use by a reader'

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From LOLcats to Dictionary Cats

Ozworder Freddie. Specialism: Etymology. Purrfect Word: Nepeta, 'a type of catnip but yummier, dates from the 17th-century' (1633 to be precise, Freddie informs us)

Over the past decade, the popular internet meme ‘LOLcats’ has given birth to a new internet language: LOLspeak, a reimagining of English as spoken by cats in photographs. If you google ‘LOLcats’ you will find thousands of photographs of cats with funny captions in non-standard English, such as I can has cheeseburger and I r not surprized u haz no girlfriend.

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Women Dictionary-Makers Past and Present

Elsie Murray (left) and Rosfrith Murray (right), lexicographers on the first edition of the OED, pictured with their father James Murray, Editor of the OED (centre front) and back row: A. T. Maling, F. J. Sweatman, F. A. Yockney.

by Sarah Ogilvie

On International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to female dictionary-makers, present and past. Australia has had its fair share of English-language dictionary specialists including Jay Arthur, Ann Atkinson, Maureen Brooks, Pauline Bryant, Sue Butler, June Factor, Bernadette Hince, Joan Hughes,  Dorothy Jauncey, Lenie (Midge) Johansen, Nancy Keesing, Anne Knight, Amanda Laugesen, Alison Moore, Sarah Ogilvie, Pam Peters, Joan Ritchie, and Julia Robinson. As a young lexicographer at the Australian National Dictionary Centre in the early 1990s, I was surprised to discover that every lexicographer, except for the Director, was a woman. Globally, there are also prominent women: Katherine Barber (Canada), Dianne Bardsley (New Zealand), Jean Branford (South Africa), Joan Houston Hall (USA), Judy Pearsall (UK), and Penny Silva (South Africa), to name just a few.

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