Words from our Word Box: update 4

by the ANDC team

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

This is our fourth update on the contributions that have been made to the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word Box, our website feature which you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow our editors to identify new material for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and also for our archive of Australian words, and to share these findings with you. We thank everyone for their submissions and encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image at left 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.

awkie (also awkies, awks)—awkward. These informal abbreviations of ‘awkward’ have become popular with youth and on social media. It can be used adjectivally, as in that’s an awkie situation, but can also be used as an exclamation in response to an awkward moment or event: ‘My ex was at the party!’ ‘Awks!’

Kevin Rudd makes a captain's pick

captain’s pick—a term used in golf when a player who might not otherwise be eligible to play in a tournament is selected by the captain. It is often used in the context of the American golfing tournament, the Ryder Cup. In Australia this term has been used in the last year in a political context, where a Prime Minister has ignored preselection processes and nominated their own candidate for a particular political seat. The term was first used when Julia Gillard selected Nova Peris for a Northern Territory federal Senate seat in January 2013, and again when Kevin Rudd selected Peter Beattie to run in the Queensland electorate of Forde. The political usage is confined to Australia so far, and it will be interesting to see if it continues to be used in this way.

coreeda—a form of wrestling or martial art. It is based on traditional forms of wrestling thought to be practised by some indigenous Australians prior to the arrival of Europeans. An association promoting the sport was formed in the late 1990s.

fibro majestic—a fibro-cement house. This colloquial term first appears in the late 1980s, probably as an ironic name for a particular fibro-cement home in the Blue Mountains, and derived from a play on the name of the famous Blue Mountains hotel, the Hydro Majestic. It has subsequently had some currency as a generic term for a fibro home.

kangatarian—an ‘ethical consumer’ who chooses to eat no meat with the exception of kangaroo meat, on the grounds that the kangaroo is the only animal that can be sustainably grown and harvested in Australia. The word is an blend of ‘kangaroo’ and ‘vegetarian’. It is first recorded in 2010.

MAMIL (also mamil)—an acronym for ‘middle-aged man in lycra’. This is a disparaging term that means a man of a certain age (and sometimes a certain size) who rides a bicycle and wears lycra cycling gear. MAMILS are frequently seen on urban roads and cycle paths, especially on weekends. The term has been around since at least 2010, and appears to be used in both Australia and the UK.

robo poll—a phone call that automatically dials numbers and uses an automated interactive process to record political preference and intention. The term and the practice were used in the United States in the 2008 presidential election and have become common in countries such as the US and Canada. It has recently appeared in Australia during the 2012 Queensland election, and again in the 2013 federal election campaign.

spite tree—a tree planted on your property in order to block your neighbour’s view. This term (along with the variant spite fence) appears to be an American term dating from the early 2000s. Some American states have laws against the planting or building of trees, hedges or fences with the intention of antagonising one’s neighbours. From the mid-2000s the term can be found in Australian sources.

Ausralian comedian Peter Helliar's latest show is called 'Whatevs'

whatevs—whatever. This informal abbreviation of ‘whatever’ is recorded by Oxford dictionaries from the 1990s; however, in the Australian print media it is only recorded from 2005. While typically used by young people and on social media, it has recently been used by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.





2 thoughts on “Words from our Word Box: update 4

  1. I have never heard spite tree in the U.S., and neither Ngrams nor COHA/COCA have any references to it. Spite fence, on the other hand, is at least a hundred years old as a U.S. legal term: it appears in a judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama from 1912, where they are said to be “erected […] solely for the malicious purpose of vexing and injuring [the plaintiff] in the lawful use and enjoyment of his dwelling house, and […] at the same time devoid of all benefit or value to [the defendant] in the use or improvement of her property”. It is clear from the context that the phrase is no novelty.

    It’s interesting that the non-political term captain’s pick was applied in a political context. Its use in an American political context is hard to imagine: it is a very strong convention, to some extent enforced by law, that the representative of a district, city, or state must be from it, not merely a resident of it but with substantial ties to it. Occasionally a national figure will move to a specific state in order to run for Congress from that state (both Bobby Kennedy and Hillary Clinton became Senators from New York by this process), but it is always controversial to do so, and the voters often feel it is an abuse of the political process and reject it. For a national or local party committee to pick the representative from X for their own purposes, without reference to the voters of X, is essentially unheard-of except in the most corrupt of cities and counties. (The exception is the Vice-Presidency and its statewide analogues, where it is generally understood that the President or Governor picks his running mate: nationally and in most states, they are elected jointly anyway and win or lose together.)

  2. A term which (for me) has emerged only recently is “cold-calling”. That is to make publicity for a campaign, say for charities seeking donations, or more blatantly as cheap advertising, by calling at random without invitation. Unsolicited telephoning is similar to knocking uninvited on doors or delivering “junk” mail into letterboxes. It is similar to ROBO calling (see your ROBO POLL comments in Word Box) but its motivation is a search of customers rather than the sampling of opinion

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