The story of rello, rellie, and other Australian terms ending in ‘ie’ and ‘o’

by Bruce Moore

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, and editor of the Australian National Dictionary (2016). The following is an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (published by Oxford University Press Australia, 2010).

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.

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

quoit – Word Watch

by the ANDC

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.

 

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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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 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

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

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 team

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

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

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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