A caption from the Adelaide ‘Mail’, 18th February 1933, via Trove digitised newspapers (National Library of Australia)
by the ANDC team
The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.
Our Word of the Month for April is ‘sparrow ticket’: a means of gaining admission to, or viewing, an event such as a sporting match without paying for a ticket. A term that was quite common in the first half of the 20th century but is rarely found in written records today. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.
This is our first update for 2014 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 our editors to identify new material for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and also for our archive of Australian words. We like to share our recent findings with you through regular updates. We thank everyone for their submissions and 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.
Over the years the names of many individual people have added colour to the Australian English vocabulary. The technical term for words deriving from people’s names is eponym (from the Greek epi ‘upon’ + onoma ‘name’). Eponymous people in Australian English include Anna Pavlova (ballerina), Barry Crocker (actor and singer), Baron Lamington (Governor of Queensland ), Ned Kelly (bushranger), Dame Nellie Melba (singer), Dorothy Dix (journalist), Sylvanus Bowser (inventor), Maria ‘Granny’ Smith (gardener), Reginald Grundy (television producer), and Harold Holt (Prime Minister) to name a few.* One of the more recent names we can add to this list is former Australian Olympian Steven Bradbury.
George Stubb’s painting ‘Kongouro from New Holland’. The painting was exhibited in 1773 and is the first known depiction of a kangaroo in Western art. It now resides at the National Maritime Museum in London.
In Australian English a counter lunch is a midday meal served in the bar of a hotel or public house; the term derives from the counter at which the meals were originally served. Its purpose is to entice customers to patronise the bar by offering cheap food.
In a recent linguistics course I wrote about Tumblr Speak, a variety of English that is spoken on Tumblr. Tumblr is a free online blogging website that allows users to share images and videos and to communicate with other Tumblr users via posts. Each post consists of a combination of three features: a graphic, post text, and tag, with some posts containing only one or two of these things. The following is an example of a Tumblr post containing all three:
Each year the ANDC selects a WORD OF THE YEAR. The words chosen for the shortlist are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year.
This year we saw a number of new words, many relating to new technology and social media. The 2013 Federal election also brought to prominence several terms considered for our shortlist.
This is our last update for the year on contributions that have been made to the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word Box, the website feature you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow our editors to identify new material for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and also for our archive of Australian words, and to share these findings with you. We thank everyone for their submissions and encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image at left to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below. Some we have come across previously and some are new to us. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words. Continue reading →
In my last blog, I told the story of Cornelius Crowe, policeman, anti-corruption campaigner, and author of The Australian Slang Dictionary (1895), a record of the language of criminals on the streets of Fitzroy and Collingwood in the 1890s. In this blog I take a closer look at the dictionary itself.
Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Image source: State Library of Victoria
The dictionary was published in 1895 by Robert Barr, a printer in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, and sold for a shilling. It is ninety-eight pages long and contains nearly 2,700 words with brief definitions. The contents page lists thirty-three different types of slang covered by the dictionary, including Lovers’ Slang, Theatrical Slang, Imposters’ Slang, Vagrants’ Slang, and Bookmakers’ Slang. The subtitle claims that some of the ‘unauthorised though popular expressions’ included in the dictionary are ‘now in vogue with all classes in Australia’. Continue reading →
In a previous blog Mark Gwynn looked at the first dictionary produced in Australia, A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language, written by the convict James Hardy Vaux in 1812 to provide the court with a translation of the slang used in the colony by convicts and criminals. The perceived need to translate the language of criminals continued throughout the nineteenth century. An interesting example of this phenomenon is a dictionary compiled by Cornelius Crowe in 1895 entitled The Australian Slang Dictionary, containing the words and phrases of the thieving fraternity together with the unauthorised, though popular expressions now in vogue with all classes in Australia. Continue reading →