A recent contribution to the ANDC Word Box was the word shaggledick.* The contributor provided two dictionary references for this word and suggested that it may be a ‘Mountweazel’ word. A Mountweazel is a fictitious entry deliberately added to a reference work. The term was coined by the New Yorker magazine and named after a fictitious entry for one Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975 edition). According to one of the editors: ‘It was an old tradition in encyclopedias to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright… If someone copied Lillian, then we’d know they’d stolen from us’ (New Yorker, 29 August 2005).
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around That the colt from old Regret had got away. And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound, So all the cracks had gathered to the fray. (opening lines of ‘The Man from Snowy River’, 1890)
Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s poems and his use of the Australian vernacular have endeared him to generations of Australians. In the Australian National Dictionary (a dictionary of Australian English using quotations to provide evidence of how words are used over time) Paterson is quoted 78 times. His poems provide valuable evidence of 19th and early 20th century Australian English—particularly the language of the Australian bush. In this blog I will look closely at some of the Australianisms found in ‘The Man from Snowy River’.
In Australian English a number of terms derive from an association with place names. The Barcoo River in Western Queensland gave its name to a number of terms which became associated with outback life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They include Barcoo rot, Barcoo sickness, Barcoo spews, Barcoo dog, and Barcoo shout.
‘Barcoo’ possibly derives from a word for ‘river’ in the Birriya and Kungkari languages of the area. Henry Kendall wrote a poem in the middle of the 19th century celebrating the river, but through the late 19th century the term came to be associated with aspects of life in the outback, usually with reference to the problems experienced there. Continue reading →
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 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.
Tasmanian convict Bill Thompson in leg irons and convict uniform, 1870s. Image source: State Library of Tasmania
Following on from Mark Gwynn’s recent blog on pube, this week I will take a look at public servant. When I have talked about my work on Convict Words: the Language of Colonial Australia (OUP, 2002), it has always been a source of some amusement (especially for us Canberrans) that public servant was first used to refer to a convict assigned to public labour or work for the government. It was first recorded in 1797, and by 1812 was being used to refer to a (free) member of the public service (civil service). Continue reading →
This is the second instalment in our regular updates about contributions made to the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word Box. We invite members of the public to alert us to words and phrases that are either new to them or used in an unfamiliar way by submitting them to our Word Box. These contributions allow our editors to identify new material both for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and for our archive of Australian words, and to share these findings with you. We thank everyone for their submissions and encourage you to contribute to Word Box – just click on the Word Box image to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below. Some we have come across previously, and some are new to us. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words.
As part of the celebrations for the centenary of Canberra the Australian National Dictionary Centre will showcase a number of ‘Canberra words’ this year. In this blog we explore the word pube and attitudes towards the public servant in the nation’s capital.
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.
Shark warning sign on Western Australian beach after fatal attack in 2012
Each year the Australian summer brings news stories of shark sightings close to shore, shark attacks, and the inevitable debate about how to protect beachgoers from such attacks. Australia, as an island continent with the bulk of its population inhabiting the coastal areas, has had a long relationship with sharks. This relationship is reflected in our culture and expressed by a number of terms in Australian English.*