Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2016

Each year the ANDC selects a Word of the Year. The words chosen for the shortlist are not necessarily new, or exclusively Australian, but are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year. This year we have selected the term democracy sausage* as our Word of the Year 2016.

imgres-3democracy sausage ‘a barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day’. In a year dominated by long election campaigns with acrimonious political debate and some surprising winners and losers, the fund-raising sausage sizzle run by volunteers at polling booths is a reassuring constant of Australian elections. Recently the election day sausage in bread has become known as a democracy sausage, presumably in recognition of its place in our political life. The use of the term (first recorded in 2012) increased significantly during the federal election in  2016, especially as a result of the popularity of several websites set up to help voters locate polling stations with sausage sizzles. The proliferation of the term on social media at this time helped establish the wider use of democracy sausage in the community. With fried onion and your choice of tomato or barbecue sauce, it may be the best thing to come out of an election this year.

The shortlist:

images-1Ausexit ‘the potential cutting of ties with the British monarchy, or the departure of Australia from the United Nations’. The ‘exit’ trend is popular this year. The success of the Brexit referendum in the UK, which decided that Britain should leave the European Union, prompted a republican reaction in Australia for an exit of our own – an end to our ties with the British monarchy. Named Ausexit on the pattern of ‘Brexit’ (formed from ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ and ‘exit’), it gained some momentum in the media thanks to the Australian Republican Movement. The meaning of Ausexit is still fluid, however, with a One Nation senator and others calling for an Ausexit from the United Nations; and some disgruntled fans of Australian singer Dami Im, runner-up in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, suggesting an Ausexit from Eurovision.

census fail ‘the failure of the Australian Bureau of Statistics website on census night’. This year the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) decided to collect census data online, in preference to the traditional paper forms delivered to each Australian household (although forms were available on request). On census night, August 9, Australians were able to submit their census data online for the first time – and some actually managed. However due to heavy traffic, software failure, and concerns over data privacy, the ABS shut the site down at 7.30pm, leaving a majority of Australian households without access to the form. The site was down for two days and resulted in a storm of criticism for the census fail from the public, the media, and the Prime Minister.

imgres-2deplorables ‘people considered to be extremely conservative or reactionary, especially those who reject mainstream politics’. Hillary Clinton was strongly criticised for elitism and arrogance after describing Trump supporters as deplorables during the US election, and Trump’s followers wore the label with pride. It has entered the Australian political lexicon too, broadly referring to voters who feel disenfranchised, who are disenchanted with the major parties, and who complain of the nanny state and political correctness. The seats gained by independents and minor parties in the federal election reflect this distrust of politics as usual.

imgres-3shoey ‘the act of drinking an alcoholic beverage out of a shoe, especially to celebrate a sporting victory’. The shoey is an Australian phenomenon that shot to international fame in 2016, thanks to Australian racing driver Daniel Ricciardo. He came second in the German Grand Prix in August, and on the winners’ podium he poured champagne into his shoe and drank it. He repeated the shoey after a second placing in Belgium and as the winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The shoey has humble origins, possibly as a party trick, and was described in 2014 as ‘the act of using your dirty shoe as a beer mug’. Its association with motorsport may have begun in 2015 with V8 drivers in Australia, but the shoey now has global recognition on the Formula One circuit as Ricciardo’s signature move. We are likely to see more of it.

imgres-4smashed avo ‘a popular cafe breakfast, typically consisting of a thick slice of toast topped with chopped or mashed seasoned avocado’. Recently smashed avo has achieved some notoriety as a symbol of Generation Y’s alleged preference for an indulgent lifestyle over saving for a house deposit. It came about in October when columnist Bernard Salt suggested that money spent by young people eating smashed avocado on toast in cafes could go towards saving for a house. It prompted a furious backlash in the media from Gen Y, who stated that home ownership is simply out of their reach, and that baby boomers have unfairly benefited from tax breaks, cheaper housing, and generous pension and super entitlements unavailable to later generations. The reaction exposed a deep generational divide in Australian society between older homeowners and Gen Y renters.

*Why do dictionary-makers and language experts regard a term like democracy sausage as a ‘word’? Because it’s a compound, defined as ‘a word made up of two or more existing words’. A compound has a specific meaning that we can’t necessarily deduce from knowing the meaning of each part. Democracy sausage is one such example, as is ‘disc jockey’. Compounds can be separate words (‘real estate’), or have a hyphen (‘son-in-law’), or join to make a solid form (‘jellyfish’). They are a very common way of generating new words.

19 thoughts on “Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2016

  1. Speaking as a Brit in Oz, I’d like to see actual democracy sausages available for UK elections. But it’ll never happen. I’m working on getting it adopted as a metaphor though.

  2. @Mike Petty, You could always try starting a democracy sausage trend in the UK. Start small. Are there any obstacles that would prevent you doing it? eg. laws controlling activities around places of voting, etc

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  12. Wonderful, Excellent enrichment of the English Language, that of Diplomacy, and Shakespeare, the Bard

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