Tasmanian convict Bill Thompson in leg irons and convict uniform, 1870s. Image source: State Library of Tasmania
Following on from Mark Gwynn’s recent blog on pube, this week I will take a look at public servant. When I have talked about my work on Convict Words: the Language of Colonial Australia (OUP, 2002), it has always been a source of some amusement (especially for us Canberrans) that public servant was first used to refer to a convict assigned to public labour or work for the government. It was first recorded in 1797, and by 1812 was being used to refer to a (free) member of the public service (civil service). Continue reading →
This is the second instalment in our regular updates about contributions made to the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word Box. We invite members of the public to alert us to words and phrases that are either new to them or used in an unfamiliar way by submitting them to our Word Box. These contributions allow our editors to identify new material both for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and for our archive of Australian words, and to share these findings with you. We thank everyone for their submissions and encourage you to contribute to Word Box – just click on the Word Box image 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.
As part of the celebrations for the centenary of Canberra the Australian National Dictionary Centre will showcase a number of ‘Canberra words’ this year. In this blog we explore the word pube and attitudes towards the public servant in the nation’s capital.
Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice was published in 1950, and remains a classic tale of romance and war. As a novel written by an Englishman who had just moved to Australia, the novel reflects Shute’s attempts to capture the Australian vernacular as he depicts the heroic Jean Paget, Joe Harman, and the life and people of the Queensland Gulf Country.
At the Australian National Dictionary Centre we have been tweeting for nearly a year (@ozworders) about Australian words and language, with forays into history, literature, and popular culture. We enjoy our interactions in the Twittersphere, and it’s always a good day when we attract new followers. Last week we tweeted on the occasion of the birthday of children’s author May Gibbs, and we were delighted when two famous Australians chose to follow us: Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the gumnut babies themselves. They tweet (@MayGibbsNutcote) from Nutcote, the heritage-listed house (now a museum) in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, designed and built for May Gibbs in the 1920s. Continue reading →
In a twist on the usual Sydney–Melbourne rivalry (aka Sin City vs Bleak City), Sydneysiders have begun to notice the effects of a distinctly Melbourne influence on their Harbour City. It’s known as theMelbournisation of Sydney, a trend in urban development:
TheMelbournisation of Sydney has been most evident in the past 10 years. We’ve made our restaurants feel like basements, turned the lights down to Euro-Melburnian dimness, lobbied the government to get small bar licences, and allowed our Italians to cook Tuscan and Ligurian instead of Leichhardtian. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2010) Continue reading →
Shark warning sign on Western Australian beach after fatal attack in 2012
Each year the Australian summer brings news stories of shark sightings close to shore, shark attacks, and the inevitable debate about how to protect beachgoers from such attacks. Australia, as an island continent with the bulk of its population inhabiting the coastal areas, has had a long relationship with sharks. This relationship is reflected in our culture and expressed by a number of terms in Australian English.*
Recently we posted a blog about ‘Kylie’, a term apparently coined by former Treasurer Peter Costello: ‘Then he thanked the Opposition for asking a “Kylie” – an “I should be so lucky” question giving the Government a parliamentary free kick.’ (2004 Adelaide Advertiser, 2 Dec.) As any Gen Xer will know, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ is the title of one of the songs that made Australian singer Kylie Minogue famous. We noted that this new sense of ‘Kylie’ is not an established usage; it is not widely used, and is always followed by a mention of the song title as an explanation of the term. Continue reading →