Australia’s love affair with ‘proper’ coffee means that a teaspoon of instant coffee in a cup of boiling water no longer satisfies us as it did twenty-five years ago. We now prefer to drink espresso-based coffees such as cappuccino, caffè latte, short black, flat white, ristretto, or macchiato. We’ve come a long way; back in 1990 a North Sydney coffee lounge placed a classified ad for staff that read in part: ‘If you know the difference between a flat white and a Capuccino ring me’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July).
The surprising and important fact that most Australians do not know is that there are almost 140 species of freshwater crayfish in Australia. (Susan Lawler, The Conversation, 4 February 2013)
Fishing for yabbies (freshwater crayfish) is a happy childhood memory for many Aussie kids living near a dam or creek. The traditional technique is to bait a length of string with a piece of fresh meat, lower it into the water, wait for the yabby to latch on with its claws, and then pull up the string. Yabbies make delicious eating, and are also used as fishing bait.
This week we celebrate the birthday of Mem Fox (born 5 March 1946), Australian writer of children’s books. She is the author of such favourite picture books as Koala Lou, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, and Wombat Divine, but the book that made her a household name is her first book, Possum Magic, the runaway bestseller that has sold several million copies since it was published in 1983. It is the tale of possums Hush and Grandma Poss, who leave their bush home to find a cure for Hush’s magic invisibility. Continue reading →
Tasmanian convict Bill Thompson in leg irons and convict uniform, 1870s. Image source: State Library of Tasmania
Following on from Mark Gwynn’s recent blog on pube, this week I will take a look at public servant. When I have talked about my work on Convict Words: the Language of Colonial Australia (OUP, 2002), it has always been a source of some amusement (especially for us Canberrans) that public servant was first used to refer to a convict assigned to public labour or work for the government. It was first recorded in 1797, and by 1812 was being used to refer to a (free) member of the public service (civil service). Continue reading →
At the Australian National Dictionary Centre we have been tweeting for nearly a year (@ozworders) about Australian words and language, with forays into history, literature, and popular culture. We enjoy our interactions in the Twittersphere, and it’s always a good day when we attract new followers. Last week we tweeted on the occasion of the birthday of children’s author May Gibbs, and we were delighted when two famous Australians chose to follow us: Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the gumnut babies themselves. They tweet (@MayGibbsNutcote) from Nutcote, the heritage-listed house (now a museum) in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, designed and built for May Gibbs in the 1920s. Continue reading →
In a twist on the usual Sydney–Melbourne rivalry (aka Sin City vs Bleak City), Sydneysiders have begun to notice the effects of a distinctly Melbourne influence on their Harbour City. It’s known as theMelbournisation of Sydney, a trend in urban development:
TheMelbournisation of Sydney has been most evident in the past 10 years. We’ve made our restaurants feel like basements, turned the lights down to Euro-Melburnian dimness, lobbied the government to get small bar licences, and allowed our Italians to cook Tuscan and Ligurian instead of Leichhardtian. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2010) Continue reading →
Recently we posted a blog about ‘Kylie’, a term apparently coined by former Treasurer Peter Costello: ‘Then he thanked the Opposition for asking a “Kylie” – an “I should be so lucky” question giving the Government a parliamentary free kick.’ (2004 Adelaide Advertiser, 2 Dec.) As any Gen Xer will know, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ is the title of one of the songs that made Australian singer Kylie Minogue famous. We noted that this new sense of ‘Kylie’ is not an established usage; it is not widely used, and is always followed by a mention of the song title as an explanation of the term. Continue reading →
The Spring Racing Carnival is upon us again. It’s the time of the year when we dust off the fascinator, order the chicken and champagne lunch, and get out the form guide. The roses are blooming at Flemington, the TAB has been urging the punters amongst us to place our bets ahead of Cup Day to avoid the queues, and most of us will be taking part in the office sweep for the race that stops a nation. Continue reading →
The Australian National University (home of the Dictionary Centre) is something of a melting pot of Australian regionalisms, where students from around the country meet, talk, and, occasionally, discover that there are differences in our language based on where we come from. Recently, having finished a rehearsal early, someone commented how nice it was to get an early mark for once. The Victorians in the group were perplexed by the expression, and later when I asked a group of young Melburnians if they knew what an early mark was I received only blank looks. Continue reading →