The choice of the word Kwaussie as the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year for 2017 has raised some eyebrows, and a lot of people say they have never heard of it. So I’ll explain why we chose it.
The word came to our attention earlier this year due to its use by Van Badham, describing Barnaby Joyce (and herself), in a Guardian Australia piece. As editors of the major research project and dictionary The Australian National Dictionary: Australian Words and their Origins (Oxford University Press, second ed. 2016) we are always on the look-out for possible Australianisms and so it went into our database for further research. It also went onto our list for Word of the Year, because it related to a major event in Australia for the year – the dual citizenship saga that affected federal parliament.
We then began our research into the many words we consider for Word of the Year, including Kwaussie. Kwaussie proved to have an interesting story, and will be included in the next edition of The Australian National Dictionary. We traced our earliest piece of evidence for the word – it is first recorded in 2002 in a disparaging reference to actor Russell Crowe, a Kiwi who has lived much of his life in Australia. In a New Zealand newspaper he is described as a ‘Kwaussie (what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can’t decide whether they’re a Kiwi or an Aussie)’. (Wellington Evening Post, 19 February 2002)
Kwaussie, admittedly, does not find its way into many official media outlets, but there is some evidence. Kwaussie in various forms (such as Kwozzy, Kwozzie, and KwAussie) is found as the name of boats and netball teams (the latter in Queensland and Victoria). The strong trend of New Zealand migration to Queensland is reflected in this comment in a Queensland newspaper: ‘Seen everything now! Silver fern car stickers, one with QueeNZland and the other Kwozzie’. (Gold Coast Bulletin, 29 December 2012) And in 2015, there is this evidence from Adelaide: ‘Rivalry is in the air as Aussies and Kiwis gear up for the world’s first day-night Test on Friday. Sylvie, 7, has divided loyalties as her mum is a Kiwi and her dad is an Aussie. … ‘I’ve got family coming from New Zealand so we’ll have four Kiwis, we’ll have Sylvie – the ‘kwaussie’ – and her dad’, Sylvie’s mum Rachael says.’ (City North Messenger, 25 November 2015)
We traced considerable use of it online, in sources such as blog comments, web forums, Instagram, and Twitter.
think kwozzie is a great new nickname for all those of us who are a mixture of the two. Could also be kiwioz or kwoz – no kwozzie wins. (‘ozinnz’, yahoo.com forum, 2008)
Your grandson will be a Kwozzie, a kiwi ozzie. (comment by ‘amaykin’ on larrysworkshop.wordpress.com, 25 June 2011)
Our Director, Ray White, is a New Zealander (Kiwi) who came to live in Australia (Ozzie) in 1995. The name Kwozzie is derived from the two names Kiwi and Ozzie. It stands for the fact that she is a Kiwi now living in Ozzie. (n.d., Kwozzie.com)
Thank you Terry for remembering our ANZAC’s. Being a Kiwi I have many ANZAC ancestors. We Kiwi’s, Ozzie’s, and Kwozzie’s are so very proud of them all. Literally like lambs to the slaughter they were. They will never be forgotten. *to clarify ‘Kwozzie’s‘: a Kiwi or an Ozzie living in the other country! (Nicky Blacklock, commenting on a post on Anzac Day in 2015 on Wikitree.com)
What emerged from our research was, we felt, sufficient evidence to suggest that New Zealanders in Australia, and those who shared New Zealand and Australian citizenship and/or heritage were using this word of themselves. And with its use in relation to the dual citizenship saga, we had hoped that in selecting it as our Word of the Year, rather than prompting a backlash that this was ‘a word nobody has ever heard of’, it would prompt more productive conversations about language and identity in contemporary Australia.
Firstly, we hoped to prompt discussion about Australian English, and its relationship to New Zealand English. The two varieties of English share a long and deeply intertwined history that date back to the beginnings of settler colonialism. The first scholarly dictionary of Australian English, published in 1898, was Edward E. Morris’ A Dictionary of Austral English, and in his preface he commented that the dictionary would include ‘all the new words and the new uses of old words that have been added to the English language by reason of the fact that those who speak English have taken up their abode in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand’. While there are many differences between Australian and New Zealand English, there are also many commonalities.
Secondly, we hoped that the choice would allow us to talk about how venues such as online forums and social media have become important sources for tracing our language as it evolves. The last edition of our Australian National Dictionary limited itself to only using sources that had a print equivalent – books, magazines, and newspapers. However, in a world of digital and social media communication, we can no longer afford to do this. As is clear from many discussions about language – and the development of new words – social media and the online world has been a driver of lexical innovation. This has also become an invaluable way of tracking language that might otherwise not find its way into the formal world of print. Kwaussie is a good example of a word that had its primary evidence in the world of online communication.
Finally, we had also hoped that this Word of the Year might prompt some discussion and reflection on what it means to be an Australian. The dual citizenship saga has thrown into strong relief the fact that many of our parliamentarians – perhaps those we least expect given their public personas – have a relationship to other countries. Language can tell us something about the complexities of identity in Australia.