Canetoads vs Cockroaches


Canetoads, cockroaches: nobody likes them. The canetoad is a feral threat to Australian waterways and native wildlife, the cockroach is despised as vermin. So what are they doing in the following newspaper excerpts?

My Dad, a cockroach who nonetheless appreciates fine Queensland footballers. (1991, Brisbane Sunday Mail)

Here we go, a canetoad with swine flu. Who’ll be next? (2009, Gold Coast Bulletin) Continue reading

Digital Tools II: Analyzing the first use of Australian words

by Sarah Ogilvie

Here is another digital tool which analyzes the first time Australian words were used in print (cf. our previous blog about mining Australian sources). This graph shows the dates of first quotations for all the words in the Australian National Dictionary. Hover over any point along the graph and you are given the date and number of first quotations from that year.

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Digital Tools: Mining Australian Sources

by Sarah Ogilvie

Over the past few months here at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, we have been developing several digital tools for mining the content of the Australian National Dictionary, the definitive historical dictionary of Australian English. One tool analyzes the quotations in the dictionary that are used to exemplify a word’s use over time, and provides an interesting perspective on the history of publishing in Australia and an insight into the kinds of Australian words these publications contributed to our lexicon. Hence, this tool is a useful resource for everyone interested in Australian literature and language, especially Australian book historians and scholars of the history of Australian English.

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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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The Chamberlain case: ‘a dingo has got my baby’

 

Lindy and Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru

by Mark Gwynn

On 17 August 1980 the disappearance of a nine-week-old baby girl at Uluru (then Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory sparked what became Australia’s most famous legal case. The young baby’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain, claimed that a dingo had taken Azaria from the tent. Initially an inquest agreed with Lindy’s testimony and criticised the police investigation. Further investigations, another inquest, and a trial resulted in the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain for murder and her husband as an accessory after the fact. Lindy was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour. Several appeals, including one to the High Court, were unsuccessful.

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When Great Britain was home

Royal Visit on the occasion of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, 2006. Image source: theroyalfirm.com

This week Australia’s constitutional monarch, Elizabeth II, celebrated sixty years of reigning over us. It seems a good time to consider Australia’s relationship with Great Britain as it is reflected in the names we have called the mother country since Australia’s infancy. Continue reading

A History of Murmuration

This may not be an Australianism, but some words still deserve comment and ‘murmuration’ is one of them. A ‘murmuration’ is a flock of starlings. It is a very old word which existed in Middle English, died out in the 15th Century, but was revitalised by W.H. Auden in the early 20th Century. It originally comes from Middle French and Latin ‘murmuration’ meaning ‘grumbling’. ‘Murmuration’ always reminds me of the OED, simply because after work in Autumn a small group of us would follow one of the editors, Juliet Field, to near-by Port Meadow on the outskirts of Oxford to watch the starlings’ awe-inspiring formations. If you’ve never seen a murmuration of starlings, and witnessed the fantastic patterns they form in the autumnal sky, check out this video:

Expressions associated with Aussie PMs

The Governor-General's secretary David Smith reading the proclamation to dissolve the Parliament after the dismissal of PM Whitlam.

by Mark Gwynn

There have been numerous expressions associated with Australian prime ministers since federation in 1901. Recent examples include the term working families which became a catchcry for the Labor Party in the lead-up to the 2007 Federal election and a refrain in the speeches of PM Kevin Rudd (2007-10). Howard’s battlers is a term associated with Rudd’s predecessor John Howard (1996-2007). Both terms allude to largely middle-class Australian voters – particularly those with children and mortgages. In a similar way Australia’s longest-serving PM, Robert Menzies (1939-41, 1949-66), spoke of the forgotten people – the middle class who were neither wealthy nor represented by Labor politics or the union movement. All three terms are associated with an appeal to the centre of politics – a Goldilocks sales pitch: not too hot, not too cold.

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