The story of ‘dinkum’

by Bruce Moore

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who is currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. The following is an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (published by Oxford University Press Australia, 2010).

What's their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

What’s their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

Dinkum and its variant fair dinkum are among the central Australian terms. Australian English has had two other terms with much the same meaning as dinkum—‘fair; genuine; honest; true’—but they are no longer used. Jonick was one of them, and it appeared in Australia in the 1870s as a variant of jannock ‘fair, straightforward’, a word that has widespread use in English dialects. It became obsolete in Australia by the 1950s. The second term, ryebuck, is probably a Yiddish word and a variant of German reibach ‘profit’. It became common in Australia in the 1890s as an expression of agreement or assent (much the same as ‘all right’) and as an adjective meaning ‘good, excellent’. As with jonick, it had largely disappeared by the 1950s, although it has been retained as the title of a popular Australian folk song ‘The Ryebuck Shearer’ (the expert or ‘gun’ shearer). Dinkum, however, has been such a strong word in Australian English, that synonyms have hardly been necessary. The word dinkum is first recorded in Australian English in 1890. Continue reading

Snowball march (Word of the Month for November 2014)

An example of a 'snowball march'. This particular one was a 'Kangaroo recruiting march' held near Wallendbeen, NSW, c. 1915. Source:  Australian War Memorial

An example of a ‘snowball march’. This particular one was a ‘Kangaroo recruiting march’ held near Wallendbeen, NSW, c. 1915. Source: Australian War Memorial

by the ANDC team

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.

Our Word of the Month for November is ‘snowball march’: a march held during the First World War to encourage recruitment, particularly from rural areas. There were a number of such marches held in the First World War period – some were known by other names including ‘cooee march’ and ‘kangaroo march’. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.

‘Snowball march’ is one of the many terms discussed in ANDC director Amanda Laugesen’s new book Furphies and Whizz-Bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War. This book is now available from Oxford University Press.