The story of ‘dinkum’

by Bruce Moore

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who is currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. 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.

Dinkum and its variant fair dinkum are among the central Australian terms. Australian English has had two other terms with much the same meaning as dinkum—‘fair; genuine; honest; true’—but they are no longer used. Jonick was one of them, and it appeared in Australia in the 1870s as a variant of jannock ‘fair, straightforward’, a word that has widespread use in English dialects. It became obsolete in Australia by the 1950s. The second term, ryebuck, is probably a Yiddish word and a variant of German reibach ‘profit’. It became common in Australia in the 1890s as an expression of agreement or assent (much the same as ‘all right’) and as an adjective meaning ‘good, excellent’. As with jonick, it had largely disappeared by the 1950s, although it has been retained as the title of a popular Australian folk song ‘The Ryebuck Shearer’ (the expert or ‘gun’ shearer). Dinkum, however, has been such a strong word in Australian English, that synonyms have hardly been necessary. The word dinkum is first recorded in Australian English in 1890. Continue reading

Snowball march (Word of the Month for November 2014)

An example of a 'snowball march'. This particular one was a 'Kangaroo recruiting march' held near Wallendbeen, NSW, c. 1915. Source:  Australian War Memorial

An example of a ‘snowball march’. This particular one was a ‘Kangaroo recruiting march’ held near Wallendbeen, NSW, c. 1915. Source: Australian War Memorial

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 November is ‘snowball march’: a march held during the First World War to encourage recruitment, particularly from rural areas. There were a number of such marches held in the First World War period – some were known by other names including ‘cooee march’ and ‘kangaroo march’. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.

‘Snowball march’ is one of the many terms discussed in ANDC director Amanda Laugesen’s new book Furphies and Whizz-Bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War. This book is now available from Oxford University Press.

Words from the First World War Australian Home Front

by Amanda Laugesen

During the First World War, soldiers who served overseas used and developed a great deal of slang. Much attention has been devoted to studying this slang (see for example, A.G. Pretty’s ‘Glossary of Slang and Peculiar Terms used in the A.I.F.’), but we know far less of the words of the home front. While those on the home front knew the words of war to some extent, as this language was reported on in the press and found in letters sent home from soldiers, there was also a vocabulary distinctive to the Australian home front experience.

Anzac Day procession 1917, Brisbane

Anzac Day procession 1917, Brisbane

Continue reading

What is an Anzac button?

by Amanda Laugesen

Nested in an entry for Anzac in the Australian National Dictionary (AND, 1988) is a list of terms such as Anzac biscuit, Anzac march, and Anzac overcoat. Included in this set of terms is Anzac button. As I am currently researching Australian words from the First World War, this was one of the more intriguing terms to research.

Continue reading

The Digger: the image of the Australian soldier in his own writings

by Georgia Appleby*

Although the official birth of the Australian nation occurred in 1901 at Federation, a national identity remained dormant until the Anzacs stepped onto the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915. Despite the abysmal failure of the campaign, the Australian forces came to be known as some of the fiercest and most courageous fighters, and the men themselves were not afraid to brag about it.

Continue reading

‘Materiel’? Really?

by Julia Robinson

Early this year in a cabinet reshuffle the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed Mike Kelly, the federal member for Eden–Monaro, as the Minister for Defence Materiel. It is a relatively new Ministry, created in 2010, responsible for military equipment and supply. Minister Kelly is in charge of the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), part of the Department of Defence. The DMO currently lists among its ‘acquisition projects’ such things as armoured vehicles, communications and missile defence systems, aircraft, amphibious vehicles, and helicopters.

Mike Kelly is sworn in as Minister for Defence Materiel, February 2013.

‘Defence Materiel’—really? —asked one of our correspondents. Isn’t this just a pretentious French way to spell material? Well, apparently not, we discovered; it has a particular meaning in a military context. Continue reading

Anzac: Words from Gallipoli

by Amanda Laugesen

April 25 marks one of Australia’s most important national days, Anzac Day. Last year, we looked at the phrase ‘One Day of the Year’. This year, we take a look at a number of terms that were first used during the Gallipoli campaign by the soldiers who served there in the First World War. Continue reading

Nevil Shute and A Town Like Alice

by Amanda Laugesen

Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice was published in 1950, and remains a classic tale of romance and war. As a novel written by an Englishman who had just moved to Australia, the novel reflects Shute’s attempts to capture the Australian vernacular as he depicts the heroic Jean Paget, Joe Harman, and the life and people of the Queensland Gulf Country.

Continue reading

Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2012

Each year the ANDC selects a WORD OF THE YEAR. This year, we have selected:

green-on-blue(used in a military context) an attack made on one’s own side by a force regarded as neutral’.

This term has gained prominence in the Australian and international media due to the ongoing military involvement in Afghanistan.

Continue reading

C.E.W. Bean and Australian English – Part II

by Amanda Laugesen

Last week, I looked at the ways in which Charles Bean’s writings from before the First World War not only provide a vivid portrait of life in rural New South Wales in the first decades of the twentieth century, but also provide valuable evidence for a number of Australian English terms. This week I will take a look at his writings about the First World War.

Continue reading