Australia: Our home is girt by sea

by Mark Gwynn

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.

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Canberra Word: booner

by Mark Gwynn

This year the Australian National Dictionary Centre is showcasing Canberra words to mark the city’s centenary. The first Canberra Word blog discussed pube, a colloquial word for ‘public servant’.  This blog, the second in the series, looks at the word booner, a local word meaning ‘bogan‘.

Many readers will be familiar with the Australian word bogan. A bogan is a person who is regarded as being uncultured or unsophisticated. There are a number of regional terms across Australia for this type of person. One of the earliest examples of this kind of word is westie. A westie is used to describe a person from the western suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne. Other states provide us with the words bevan (Queensland), bog (Western Australia), and chigga (Tasmania), to name just a few. Like bogan, all these words carry an underlying judgment – that people from working-class or low socio-economic backgrounds are uncultured, crass, and unsophisticated.

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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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Prince Philip and the blue-arsed fly

by Amanda Laugesen

There was a recent surge of media interest when the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) put out a call for members of the public to help them find early evidence for a range of terms, including come in from the cold, disco, and blue-arsed fly. This last term sparked interest here in Australia because the OED claimed that the earliest evidence in print for the term was from Prince Philip commenting, in 1970, that a photographer had been ‘running around like a blue-arsed fly’.

Prince Philip watching out for a blue-arsed fly, perhaps

Many Australians were outraged not only that Prince Philip was cited as providing the first evidence for a term that they believed had been around much earlier, but also that the term was not considered to be Australian. One letter to the editor of The Australian by a West Australian commented:

As schoolboys in the 1950s, my mates and I often ran about like blue-arsed flies, incurring the wrath of parents and teachers. For the Duke of Edinburgh to be given credit for a 1970 use hardly seems right. (6 October 2012).

So what is the story of blue-arsed fly? And is it Australian?

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Australian joeys

by Julia Robinson

'Anzac the kangaroo and Peggy the wombat joeys have become mates at the Wild about Wildlife Kilmore Rescue Centre.' Image source: Rob Leeson / Herald Sun

I confess—this blog is just an excuse to post an irresistible photo of a pair of orphaned joeys. For those readers who are not familiar with the term (or who would like to know a little of its history), joey is well-known in Australian English as the word for a young kangaroo, especially one still in its mother’s pouch. Continue reading

Wattle—the emblem of our land

by Julia Robinson

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

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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Dictionary Dogs

Because dictionaries are too good to waste on cats and humans.

Ozworder Harriet. Specialism: Fashion. Barking mad on: houndstooth, 'a design of broken check; a fabric of this design' 1st recorded in New York in 1936

Ozworder Hap. Specialism: Libraries & Latin. Barking mad on: carrel, 'a private kennel provided in a library for use by a reader'

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From LOLcats to Dictionary Cats

Ozworder Freddie. Specialism: Etymology. Purrfect Word: Nepeta, 'a type of catnip but yummier, dates from the 17th-century' (1633 to be precise, Freddie informs us)

Over the past decade, the popular internet meme ‘LOLcats’ has given birth to a new internet language: LOLspeak, a reimagining of English as spoken by cats in photographs. If you google ‘LOLcats’ you will find thousands of photographs of cats with funny captions in non-standard English, such as I can has cheeseburger and I r not surprized u haz no girlfriend.

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