Each year the Australian National Dictionary Centre chooses a Word of the Year from a shortlist of terms that have become prominent in the national conversation in the past 12 months. These words and expressions reflect some of the events and issues that have generated debate in 2019. We are especially interested in Australian terms, or words with Australian meanings. This year’s pick is a familiar word with a new, Australian, meaning.
The Australian National Dictionary’s Word of the Year is:
voice ‘a formal channel for Indigenous input into the making of laws and policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’
Voice increased greatly in usage this year, as the idea of an Indigenous voice became prominent in public discussion.
Ken Wyatt and members of the Voice Co-design Senior Advisory Group. Source: indigenous.com.au
We find early evidence of voice in a 2015 speech by Noel Pearson, who spoke of the need for a First Nations ‘voice to parliament and voice to government’. In 2017 the term ‘voice to parliament’ came to national attention following the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It called for a ‘First Nations Voice’ to be enshrined in the Australian constitution, sparking debate over the form it might take. However, the Turnbull government rejected the idea of constitutional change.
In a time of covfefe, fake news, and tweetstorms, the Australian National Dictionary Centre has chosen Kwaussie as its Word of the Year for 2017. A number of significant events shaped the Australian political, cultural and social landscape this year, and the words on the shortlist reflect a number of these.
Kwaussie ‘a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand; a New Zealander living in Australia; a person of Australian and New Zealand descent’. Kwaussie, a blend of Kiwi and Aussie, is the most interesting term associated with the dual citizenship crisis engulfing the Australian Parliament in 2017. It was used to describe the most high-profile casualty of the crisis, Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce. He revealed to parliament in August that, despite being born and bred in country New South Wales, he was also a New Zealander by descent. The first evidence is found in a 2002 New Zealand newspaper article discussing Russell Crowe: he is described as a ‘Kwaussie (what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can’t decide whether they’re a Kiwi or an Aussie’). Subsequent evidence suggests its use is predominantly Australian, and is found chiefly in social media (and also found with spelling variants including kwozzie and kwozzy). Thanks to the two kwaussies identified as ineligible to sit in parliament, Barnaby Joyce and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, the term is now becoming better known.
What’s their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.
In 1981 in the Bulletin magazine the Australian writer Kathy Lette uses the term rellie for ‘relative’:‘Dreaded rellies are not so easily disposed of.’1 In 1987 in a collection of short stories Kathy Lette uses the variant form rello for ‘relative’: ‘Everybody else would have liquid-papered me out of their address books by now, especially the rellos.’2 This use of the –ie (or –y) and –o suffix with abbreviated forms of words is not exclusive to Australia, although it is more common in Australia than elsewhere, and is used in distinctive ways in Australia. The choice of –ie or –o appears to be arbitrary, although the –ie forms are much more common than the –o forms. It is rare to find a term that uses both –ie and –o, as in the case of rellie and rello, but such doublets appear occasionally, as in the older commie and commo for ‘communist’, and the more recent flannie and flanno for ‘flannelette shirt’. Some have argued that the –ie forms are more sympathetic or friendly than the –o forms, but even the examples given in this paragraph show that this is not the case. Continue reading →
Paul Hogan made some trenchant comments on radio 2GB this week about the Australian Tax Office, after the tax commissioner implied that the star had paid megabucks to avoid going to court for tax evasion. Hoges’ observations were noteworthy for his use of the words prawns and boofheads to describe ATO officials, but another of his Australianisms—quoit—may not have been so familiar:
‘Excuse me? They looked up my quoit for five years. They involved the IRS, the Australian Tax Office, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or whatever they call it in England, and they found nothing.’ (reported in The Age, 30 May 2017)
Quoit is a euphemism for ‘backside’ or ‘anus’, and is a figurative use of quoit, the ring of rope or rubber used in the game of quoits. The Australian National Dictionary records the euphemism from 1919. It’s not heard often these days, and younger Aussies are unlikely to recognise it. We owe thanks to Hoges for giving it an airing.
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.
democracy 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.
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.
In 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 →
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)
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 →
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 →
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 →