Photograph of Ned Kelly on the day before his execution
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 March 2015 is ‘Ned Kelly beard’: a full beard. Like many men of the late 19th century, Australia’s most famous bushranger Ned Kelly sported a large bushy beard. In recent times the full beard has made a comeback in Australia, and so has the term ‘Ned Kelly beard’ which is first recorded from the 1930s. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.
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 →
‘Rolf Boldrewood … the Homer of the Bush, the most distinctively Australian of all Australian writers of fiction.’
Tom Roberts, ‘Bailed up’, 1895. Source: Art Gallery of New South Wales
So said the Adelaide Advertiser in October 1889, reviewing Rolf Boldrewood’s novel Robbery Under Arms, a hugely popular tale about a boy from the bush who lives on the wrong side of the law. It first appeared as a serial in the Sydney Mail (1882-1883) and was published in full in 1888. It was an immediate success. The story is a rollicking yarn told at a fast pace, following the young Dick Marston’s fortunes from boyhood into a life of crime. Continue reading →
November 11th marked the 132nd anniversary of the execution of famous Irish-Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly. He was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. The anniversary prompts us to consider the contributions that Ned Kelly has made to the Australian lexicon.
One of Sidney Nolan's famous depictions of Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly was born in 1855 in Victoria, and by the 1870s was notorious for being involved in criminal activities. He and his gang were responsible not only for a number of robberies, but also for killing several policemen. This led to a final confrontation at Glenrowan, Victoria, in 1880, his subsequent capture, and execution.
Ned Kelly has been an important figure in Australian folklore and mythology. Graham Seal argues in his book Tell ‘em I died game: the Legend of Ned Kelly (1980) that part of Kelly’s appeal is that he is seen to embody characteristics considered typically Australian. These characteristics include defiance towards authority, independence, and an affinity with the bush. Continue reading →