What’s their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.
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).
Anzac is a central word in the expression of Australian attitudes and values, and it carries its history more overtly than any other Australian word. It had humble beginnings: it is an acronym formed from the initial letters of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, originally used as a telegraphic code name for the Corps when it was in Egypt in 1915, just prior to the landing at Gallipoli. It first appears in writing in the Australian war historian C.E.W. Bean’s Diary on 25 April 1915: ‘Col. Knox to Anzac. “Ammunition required at once.”’1 Two weeks later Bean writes: ‘Anzac has become the sort of code word for the Army Corps’ (6 May).2 It was eventually to become ‘a sort of code word’ for Australia and its beliefs and values. Continue reading →
Each year the ANDC selects a Word of the Year. The words chosen for the shortlist are not necessarily new, or exclusively Australian, but are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year. This year one word stood out for its presence in Australian politics and the media. We have selected shirtfront as our Word of the Year 2014.
shirtfront ‘in figurative use, to challenge or confront a person’.
Prime Minster Abbott and President Putin at the G20 Summit in Brisbane
Shirtfront is transferred from a term used in Australian Rules football, where it refers to a type of hip-and-shoulder bump of an opponent, and is also found in Rugby, where it refers to grabbing an opponent’s jersey. Prime Minister Tony Abbott used the word in a press conference when asked whether he would raise the issue of the downing of flight MH17 with Russian President Vladimir Putin: Continue reading →
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.
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.
Since the adoption of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ as Australia’s national anthem there have been a number of vocal critics. Some of these critics are nostalgic for the former anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, others prefer the unofficial anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’, while others are uninspired by the tune and lyrics. In this blog I will look at one very particular criticism – the retention of the word girt. The word is archaic and rare in other Englishes but thanks to the anthem Australians know it well.
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 →
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.
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.’
Golden wattle. Image source: Australian National Botanic Gardens
September in Australia means that wattle trees are in bloom, fragrant and full of colour. The blossom can be any shade of yellow from pale cream to deep gold, depending on the species. The colours of the wattle are the inspiration for the green and gold, Australia’s national colours, officially proclaimed in 1984 (but used as sporting colours for much longer). Wattle blossom has long been emblematic of Australia; branches of wattle appeared on the Australian Coat of Arms in 1912, and in 1988 the profusely flowering golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was named as the national floral emblem. Continue reading →