Word of the Year 2019

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.

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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

Tony Abbott and his way with words

by Julia Robinson

This week we pay tribute to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the terms he has contributed to the language of politics and public debate in this country. His ministers too gave us some memorable terms (‘lifters and leaners’, ‘budget emergency’, ‘on-water matters’) but Tony Abbott’s output eclipsed them. Listed here are some notable words and phrases associated with his time in the top job, and the election campaign leading up to it. Continue reading

Shake-a-leg

by Julia Robinson

Twenty years ago the traditional Indigenous dance, shake-a-leg, became front page news. It was performed outside the High Court in Canberra to celebrate the court’s historic Wik decision, which held that statutory pastoral leases do not automatically extinguish native title rights. One of the claimants, a Wik elder, marked the occasion by dancing. It was the first time many Australians had seen or heard the term shake-a-leg:

Gladys Tybingoompa dances outside the High Court.

Wik claimant Gladys Tybingoompa dances outside the High Court.

Gladys Tybingoompa could contain her exuberance no longer. She reached into her handbag, produced a pair of clap-sticks and whirled into a wild song and dance of victory. For a moment or two, every face around the normally sombre precincts of the High Court of Australia appeared to be wreathed in smiles as Ms Tybingoompa leapt and kicked through the dance she called ‘Shake a Leg’. She had travelled all the way from Cape York to Canberra to hear the High Court’s opinion of her people’s rights to their traditional land. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1996) Continue reading

Spill (Word of the Month for May 2015)

spill

 

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 May 2015 is ‘spill’: the deliberate creation of vacant positions in a cabinet, political party, or organisation. This Australian sense of ‘spill’ goes back to the 1940s, and describes a common phenomenon in Australian politics. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.

Headland speech (Word of the Month for June 2014)

Former Australian prime minister John Howard

Former Australian prime minister John Howard

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.

A headland in Saltwater National Park, NSW

A headland in Saltwater National Park, NSW

 

Our Word of the Month for June is ‘headland speech’: a significant political speech, especially one setting out major policy. The term appears to have been coined in 1995 by the then Australian opposition leader John Howard. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.

Larrikin, writer, activist: Frank Hardy and Australian English

by Amanda Laugesen

Union membership cards were obtained from the dwindling band of ‘West’ trade union officials. Votes were then cast in the names of absent union members, living or dead. If this precaution failed, the ballot box was, if the opportunity arose, ‘stuffed’ as Sugar Renfrey termed it. This entailed the addition of as many more ‘bodger’ votes as possible. (Power Without Glory, p. 383)

Hardy1

One of Australia’s most controversial literary figures is Frank Hardy (1917-1994). Hardy was a left-wing novelist, writer, and political activist, and is probably best known today as the author of Power Without Glory, published in 1950. Although a novel, this book is a thinly-veiled account of the life of John Wren, a Melbourne businessman who wielded considerable political influence in Victoria for many years. Hardy was famously sued for criminal libel over the publication, but was acquitted. In writing about politics – the quote above makes use of the Australian term bodger, meaning ‘fake, false, worthless’ – he drew on a rich vein of colloquial Australian speech to inject his radical politics with what he considered an authentic Australian working-class spirit. Continue reading

Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2013

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.

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Cornelius Crowe: a dictionary maker in the cause of justice

by Judith Smyth*

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

Words from the campaign trail

The vanquisher and the vanquished: Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd

by Julia Robinson

At last the dust has settled after the federal election. During the campaign we heard arguments, promises, accusations, assertions, rebuttals, and speeches from our politicians, all couched in language designed to influence the way Australians vote. And we heard and read even more commentary from broadcasters, journalists and social media commentators on the election. This week we look at the memorable words and phrases—some Australian, some not—that were associated with Election 2013. Continue reading