Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2012

Each year the ANDC selects a WORD OF THE YEAR. This year, we have selected:

green-on-blue(used in a military context) an attack made on one’s own side by a force regarded as neutral’.

This term has gained prominence in the Australian and international media due to the ongoing military involvement in Afghanistan.

Military conflict has historically generated many new terms; green-on-blue is yet another such product of war. The term comes from the use of green to indicate neutral forces (in Afghanistan, the local security forces are technically considered neutral) and blue to indicate friendly forces on military maps. While this term is not exclusively Australian, it has come to have significance in Australia in 2012 as a number of Australian soldiers lost their lives in such attacks.

Attacks this year on coalition forces by men wearing Afghan army uniforms – known as green-on-blue or insider attacks – have almost doubled from the record set last year. (Melbourne Age, 15 November 2012, p.12)

The shortlist:


The world of technology and science gives us qubit, ‘a quantum bit or quantum piece of information’, which is used in computing. While an American scientist theorised that a qubit might be built, this year a team of Australian engineers made the breakthrough that will lead to the construction of a quantum computer.

Today’s computers store data in binary code, a collection of 1s and 0s. The single atom quantum bit, or qubit, which took teams at the University of NSW and the University of Melbourne more than a decade to develop, stores information in the single electron that circles the atom. (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 2012, p.3)

fourth age

Australia’s ageing demographic meant that fourth age, ‘people aged 85 and over’, began to be spoken about in the media.

He is still playing croquet, golf (on a putting green), bridge and has recently taken up tai chi….  Mr Lockwood is part of a growing group of Australians aged over 85, a generation that demographers have started calling ‘the Fourth Age’. (Canberra Times, 9 November 2012, p.4)


Celebrity and personal image motivate the appearance of brotox, ‘botox used by a man’. It has been around since last year, growing in popularity in 2012, and perhaps has increased relevance for Australians due to our fascination with the ongoing transformation of Shane Warne.

Warnie’s possibly already had a lash at the brotox – look closely, he’s had trouble smiling the past few months, which is the sort of side effect that botox has on the ladies. (Australian, 15 November 2012, p.13)

fossil farming

Social issues brought a number of words to prominence. The ongoing issue of drugs – in particular, the abuse of prescription drugs – has led to the term fossil farming, ‘the activity of buying prescription drugs from elderly people for personal use or illegal sale’.

One local drug worker told a recent Wodonga drug forum that gangs were recruiting elderly people to get prescriptions from their GPs for use in the local drug market, calling it ‘fossil farming’.They said a portion of the drug was kept by the patient, the rest was taken by the ‘gang’ and sold into a black market. (Albury-Wodonga Border Mail, 19 October 2012, p.7)

WOTY 2012 and the shortlist are selected by the research and editorial staff of the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

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.


4 thoughts on “Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2012

  1. Pingback: Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2012: green-on-blue « mgpcpastor's blog

  2. We have received a number of comments about our Word of the Year in relation to it consisting of three ‘words’: ‘green’ ‘on’ ‘blue’. Following are a few comments about why lexicographers and linguists still consider words like ‘green-on-blue’ as a word.

    Dictionary entries begin with a headword, and these have always been of various kinds, a truism illustrated by the treatment of compounds. These can be made up of two ‘words’ (black bird), two hyphenated ‘words’ (black-bird), or two ‘words’ without anything between them (blackbird). Whatever the graphical representation, the referent (the bird that is coloured black) remains the same, and does not vary in meaning one little bit. To the dictionary maker black bird is a word, black-bird is a word, and blackbird is a word; in earlier dictionaries you will probably find black bird, but the solid form has now become the preferred form. The solid forms, however, are not inevitable. In the past, looking-glass was usually hyphenated, but it is now usually written as looking glass. It is the same word—its referent is the same. Some of the hyphenated words can be quite long: jack-in-the-box. Our Word of the Year, green-on-blue, is one of these compound words, in which the three parts are necessary for the meaning. Structurally and semantically green-on-blue has parallels in the established ‘man-on-man’ and ‘one-on-one’. Dictionary makers know that many people believe that a word can only be of the blackbird kind—a single letter such as ‘a’, or a string of letters such as ‘blackbird’, with white stuff on either side. Dictionary makers also know that words have never quite behaved themselves in this way.

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