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.
A headland in Saltwater National Park, NSW
Our Word of the Month for June is ‘headland speech’: a significant political speech, especially one setting out major policy. The term appears to have been coined in 1995 by the then Australian opposition leader John Howard. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.
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.
Each year the ANDC selects a WORD OF THE YEAR. The words chosen for the shortlist are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year.
This year we saw a number of new words, many relating to new technology and social media. The 2013 Federal election also brought to prominence several terms considered for our shortlist.
The vanquisher and the vanquished: Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd
by Julia Robinson
At last the dust has settled after the federal election. During the campaign we heard arguments, promises, accusations, assertions, rebuttals, and speeches from our politicians, all couched in language designed to influence the way Australians vote. And we heard and read even more commentary from broadcasters, journalists and social media commentators on the election. This week we look at the memorable words and phrases—some Australian, some not—that were associated with Election 2013. Continue reading →
Harold Holt in 1953. Image source: National Archives of Australia
Today marks the 104th birthday of former Prime Minister Harold Holt. Tragically on 17 December 1967 Holt went missing while swimming in rough seas at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria. After extensive searches it was presumed that he had drowned. The disappearance of a serving Prime Minister sparked much speculation in the years to follow, including the suggestion of suicide and the long-running urban myth that he had been picked up by a Chinese submarine. The circumstances surrounding Holt’s disappearance led to the creation of one of Australian English’s more recent rhyming slang terms. Continue reading →
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.
Do you know the word stormstick for umbrella? Neville Chamberlain (pictured) probably didn’t, but he knew the well-dressed British politician needed one (along with homburg, gloves, hanky, and beautiful shiny shoes). A stormstick was a familiar Chamberlain accessory during his Prime Ministership.
Apparently not! The Australian word ranga is often used derogatively as a name for a red-haired person. It is derived from orang-utan – a reddish-haired primate found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. The evidence for this word goes back to the early 2000s but has become more prolific in the last few years.