Words from our Word Box: update 10

by the ANDC team

Click on the logo to go the Word Box page

Click on the logo to go the Word Box page

This is the first update for 2015 on contributions to our Word Box, the website feature you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow us to identify new material for our archive of Australian words, and also for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries. We encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image to the left to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below; some are new to us, and some we already know. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words, and look forward to your contributions this year.


bagel – (in a sporting context) to gain a strong advantage over an opponent; to ‘thrash’ the opposing player or team. The verb probably derives from the resemblance of the ring-shaped ‘bagel’ (a dense bread roll associated with Jewish baking) to the numeral zero. Bageling is often associated with tennis, and specifically when a player wins a set 6-0: ‘he was bageled in the first set’. You can also double-bagel your opponent, winning two sets 6-0. The verb bagel can also be found referring to other sports such as volleyball, basketball, and some football codes. Bageling in these contexts can mean either keeping your opponent’s score to zero, or beating them convincingly. The term can be found in US evidence from the early 1980s.

coffice – a coffee shop used by a person as an office. A blend of ‘coffee’ and ‘office’, the phenomenon of the coffice is symptomatic of the portable nature of office work in the age of tablets, smartphones, and laptops – and it also speaks of our love affair with barista-made coffee. If you can hold a meeting, skype, project-manage, or read and edit documents in a cosy café over an espresso, why wouldn’t you?  Evidence for coffice appeared around 2009.


dooring – (also car-dooring) a collision between a cyclist and an open car door. This type of collision has been increasing in recent years as more cyclists share the road with drivers. The term appears in written sources from the early 2000s. Some evidence for the verbal forms doored and car-doored can also be found.

drop trou – to pull down one’s pants, especially in public as a stunt.  ‘Trou’ is an abbreviation of ‘trousers’ and is found in early 20th century sources. Drop trou is a chiefly North American term, recorded first in US sources in the 1960s. American author Stephen King used the term in his 2001 novel Dreamcatcher: ‘I don’t care if you have to drop trou and dance the hootchie-koo’. A variant, ‘down trou’, is defined in David McGill’s Complete Kiwi Slang Dictionary (1988) as a ‘male .. party trick of standing on the table and dropping trousers’. Evidence for the Australian use of drop trou occurs only recently.

koala diplomacy

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and Russian president Vladimir Putin try a bit of koala diplomacy. The koalas have other ideas.

koala diplomacy  the practice of giving a visiting foreign dignitary a koala to hold as a photo-opportunity; a form of Australian soft power diplomacy. The term is modelled on China’s strategic ‘panda diplomacy’, where pandas are presented as gifts to foreign powers. ‘Panda diplomacy’ dates from the early 1970s, although the practice has a longer history in Chinese diplomatic relations. Koala diplomacy is more recent. It first occurs in the 1980s, initially referring to the gift of koalas to Japanese zoos, but chiefly now to the koala photo-op. The 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane featured koala diplomacy, notably with President Putin, pictured here. ‘I very much believe in the power of koala diplomacy’,  Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop said at the time. ‘Koalas are still a big hit.’


leafing – the use of a leaf as a musical instrument. In Australia leafing is associated with the bush music tradition of ‘gumleaf blowing’. A leaf from a gum tree is used as a resonator when held in the hands and blown upon, producing a sound similar to a kazoo.  There is only recent and limited evidence for leafing. The more common terms in Australian English, ‘gumleaf blowing’ and ‘gumleaf playing’ can be found from the early 20th century.

sandwich generation –  a cohort of people, typically middle-aged, who find themselves responsible not only for bringing up their children but also for the care of their ageing parents. The Oxford English Dictionary records this term from 1975, in a quotation from an academic journal that neatly explains the use of the word ‘sandwich’ in sandwich generation: ‘they are weighed down by the elders from above, pressed against by insurgent youth from below.’ Originally North American, the term sandwich generation has become familiar in Australia in recent years as debate about the ageing demographic in Australian society has come to the fore.

spod – a dull or socially inept person, especially someone who is excessively studious. This is a British slang term, with evidence from the late 1980s, but the origin of the word is unknown. The spod has some similarity to the Australian ‘dag’, which is an unfashionable person, or a person lacking style or character, especially a socially awkward adolescent. Spod also overlaps with ‘nerd’, as this comment in the Liverpoool Echo last year shows: ‘…to endorse earnest behaviour is just not very cool. Even as adults, we yearn to be one of the cool kids smoking on the backseat, not the spod who sits with teacher.’ As yet spod and spoddy (the adjective derived from it) are not commonly used in Australia.

2 thoughts on “Words from our Word Box: update 10

  1. It’s strange to hear that drop trou is North American in origin, since we call trousers pants. Of course we haven’t always done so; there are no OED quotations before 1835. The OED gives no North American quotations at all for trousers, so it’s difficult to trace when the usage was abandoned. I note that the OED says that pants ‘trousers’ is also used in Australasia; is that still true?

  2. Yes, Australians and New Zealanders use ‘pants’ and ‘trousers’ interchangeably. It can cause some mild entertainment to Brits, who use ‘pants’ to refer to underwear – what we downunder might call ‘underpants’ or ‘undies’.
    I can’t tell you when North Americans abandoned ‘trousers’ in favour of ‘pants’, but it is interesting to note that OED has ‘trou’ (as an abbreviation of ‘trousers’), from 1911, and says it was originally in US military use. They suggest it is now chiefly used in the US and NZ. I rarely hear it in Australia.

Comments are closed.