Mem Fox and thirty years of Possum Magic

by Julia Robinson

Mem Fox. Image source: www.memfox.net

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

A hundred years of gumnut babies

by Julia Robinson

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

The evolution of a word–the case of ‘Kylie’

Kylie Minogue

by Mark Gwynn

The word kylie in Australian English has a long history. It comes from ‘garli’, a word meaning ‘boomerang’ in Nyungar, the language of south-western Western Australia, and also in a number of other western and central Australian languages. Kylie, used chiefly in Western Australia, was first recorded in an English context in the 1830s:

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The race that stops a nation

by Julia Robinson

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

Australia’s best hat

by Julia Robinson

Akubra-wearers at Wodonga, Vic. Image source: Weekly Times

In early November 2012, Kempsey (NSW) racegoers and townsfolk will attempt to break the world record for the greatest number of people wearing Akubra hats. ‘We need at least 1,000 proud Akubra owners in the CBD on Race Day to make the world record official’, say the organisers. ‘And everyone in the local community is invited to take part.’

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From Watergate to Utegate

The ute at the centre of the Utegate affair.

by Mark Gwynn

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal. On 17 June 1972 five men were arrested when they were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington D.C. It later transpired that officials in President Richard Nixon’s Republican administration had been involved, and the scandal ultimately led to the resignation of Nixon in 1974.

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Australia – the land of the fair go

The original Eureka flag flown at the Eureka Stockade in 1854. The Eureka flag was used in the shearers' strikes of 1891. Image source: Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

 

by Mark Gwynn

In discussions about the Federal budget in the coming weeks we will hear both sides of politics claim that Australians deserve a fair go. Indeed Australian politics have been awash in recent times with words reflecting an age that many may have thought belonged to an earlier period of socialists versus capitalists, left versus right, workers versus employers. We have the politics of envy, class warfare, and of course the right of all Australians to a fair go.

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Would the PM be offended if I called her a ranga?

by Mark Gwynn

Apparently not! The Australian word ranga is often used derogatively as a name for a red-haired person. It is derived from orang-utan – a reddish-haired primate found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. The evidence for this word goes back to the early 2000s but has become more prolific in the last few years.

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