The convict origins of ‘public servant’

by Amanda Laugesen

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

Words from our Word Box: update 2

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

by the ANDC team

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.

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