A small number of Australian English words have their likely origins in Yiddish, a Jewish language with its origins in German, and with several regional variations. Words with a Yiddish origin came into Australian English both through the migration of Yiddish speakers to Australia, as well as through transferred uses and variants of terms that had developed in British English and slang. Continue reading →
There are a number of Australian English words, commonly used by and familiar to most Australians, that have shifted their meaning, or had different meanings, over time. Some of these different meanings are subtle, while others are more significant, but the history of the word tells us something about changes in Australian society and attitudes. Many current speakers of Australian English might be unaware of these earlier and alternative meanings of these words, several of which are discussed below.
George Stubb’s painting ‘Kongouro from New Holland’. The painting was exhibited in 1773 and is the first known depiction of a kangaroo in Western art. It now resides at the National Maritime Museum in London.
Sometimes dictionary-makers change their minds about the origin of a word, given access to evidence that is new, or newly available. This happened to us recently at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, when a journalist contacted us to ask about the origin and meaning of the Australian phrase to have the wood on. To have the wood on(also to get the wood on) means ‘to have an advantage over (someone)’, and it is used in both Australia and New Zealand.
Noosa gets the wood on Caloundra.
‘Two out of three ain’t bad was the result from Shark Park on Sunday. The Kawana Dolphins are usually very strong in all grades, but Caloundra had the wood on them this time.’ (Caloundra Weekly, 9 May, 2013) Continue reading →
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’.
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 →
'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 →
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 →
The wreck of the Loch Ard in 1878 near Cape Otway, Victoria. Image source: State Library of Victoria
by Mark Gwynn
Last week on 6 August renowned art critic, historian, and man of letters Robert Hughes, AO, died in New York at the age of 74. Hughes, who left Australia in the 1960s to pursue opportunities overseas, is one of a group of expatriate Australian trailblazers and intellectuals that includes Clive James and Germaine Greer. Hughes had a successful career as a writer and critic before undertaking his major historical work The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787–1868. This international bestseller, published in the year before Australia’s 1988 bicentenary, sought to re-examine the foundation of modern Australia and the role that transported criminals from Britain had in this story.
This week marks the birthday of the second Baron Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. Baron Lamington – full name Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie – may have been the inspiration for the lamington, a small cake dipped in chocolate icing, rolled in coconut, and considered as Australian as the Anzac biscuit or the iced vovo.
The first mention of lamington appears in print in 1901 in the Brisbane Queenslander a few days before Lord and Lady Lamington left Government House at the end of their antipodean posting. The editor of the ‘Women’s Club’ column replies to a correspondent: ‘Native Born.—Have not heard of a recipe for ”Lamington cake”. Can you give some clue to the appearance and ingredients of the cake?’ (14 December 1901) Continue reading →