The story of ‘mate’

 

 by Bruce Moore

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, and editor of the forthcoming (2016) second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. The following is an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (published by Oxford University Press Australia, 2010).

What's their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

What’s their Story? gives a detailed account of many of the iconic words in Australian English.

Mate is one of those words that is used widely in Englishes other than Australian English, and yet has a special resonance in Australia. Although it had a very detailed entry in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (the letter M was completed 1904–8), the Australian National Dictionary (AND) included mate in its first edition of 1988, thus marking it as an Australianism. A revision of the OED entry for mate was posted online in December 2009, as part of the new third edition, and this gives us the opportunity to test the extent to which the word can be regarded as Australian. Not one of the standard presently-used senses of mate in OED is marked Australian. What are they doing to our Australian word? Continue reading

schmick up (Word of the Month for November 2015)

bond

 

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Our Word of the Month for November 2015 is ‘schmick up’: to smarten (something) up; to renovate (something); to improve (something) superficially. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

flagfall (Word of the Month for October 2015)

flag

 

by the ANDC team

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Our Word of the Month for October 2015 is ‘flagfall’: 1. an initial minimum hiring charge for a taxi, as part of the overall fare. 2. a fixed initial charge incurred when making a call on a mobile phone. The term derives from the small mechanical lever, a flag, which early taxis used to indicate if the taxi was for hire. While the taxi sense of ‘flagfall’ dates to the early 20th century, the mobile phone sense is recorded from the 1990s. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Words from our Word Box: update 12

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

by the ANDC staff

This is the third 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 to Word Box.

Continue reading

Tony Abbott and his way with words

by Julia Robinson

This week we pay tribute to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the terms he has contributed to the language of politics and public debate in this country. His ministers too gave us some memorable terms (‘lifters and leaners’, ‘budget emergency’, ‘on-water matters’) but Tony Abbott’s output eclipsed them. Listed here are some notable words and phrases associated with his time in the top job, and the election campaign leading up to it. Continue reading

Become an etymologist for a day—help us with ‘Sam Tick’

by Mark Gwynn

etymology

One of the most unsatisfying aspects of researching and writing a dictionary entry is not being able to determine the origin of a word. The study of a word’s history and origin—its etymology—is just one part of the dictionary-maker’s task. Often the etymology of a word can be readily identified: it may derive from another word, a particular language, or the name of a person, a place, or a product. Take the Australian English word dunny (a toilet) for example. It derives from a British dialect word dunnekin (a privy), and is probably ultimately derived from a combination of dung (faeces) and ken (a house). How do we arrive at this conclusion? Continue reading

CUB (Word of the Month for September 2015)

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by the ANDC team

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Our Word of the Month for September 2015 is ‘CUB’: an affluent bogan. ‘Cub’ is an acronym from ‘cashed-up bogan’. In Australian English ‘cashed-up’ refers to a person who is well supplied with money, and ‘bogan’ is a person usually regarded as unsophisticated and uncultured, typically one from a low socioeconomic background. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Shake-a-leg

by Julia Robinson

Twenty years ago the traditional Indigenous dance, shake-a-leg, became front page news. It was performed outside the High Court in Canberra to celebrate the court’s historic Wik decision, which held that statutory pastoral leases do not automatically extinguish native title rights. One of the claimants, a Wik elder, marked the occasion by dancing. It was the first time many Australians had seen or heard the term shake-a-leg:

Gladys Tybingoompa dances outside the High Court.

Wik claimant Gladys Tybingoompa dances outside the High Court.

Gladys Tybingoompa could contain her exuberance no longer. She reached into her handbag, produced a pair of clap-sticks and whirled into a wild song and dance of victory. For a moment or two, every face around the normally sombre precincts of the High Court of Australia appeared to be wreathed in smiles as Ms Tybingoompa leapt and kicked through the dance she called ‘Shake a Leg’. She had travelled all the way from Cape York to Canberra to hear the High Court’s opinion of her people’s rights to their traditional land. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1996) Continue reading

Tip turkey (Word of the Month for August 2015)

by the ANDC staff

tip turkey for blog

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Our Word of the Month for August 2015 is ‘tip turkey’: the white ibis, Threskiornis moluccus, often regarded as a pest in urban areas because of its scavenging at tips, etc. The evidence for this term goes back to 2009. The increasing numbers of these birds found scavenging from bins in parks and in other urban areas has led to a number of similar epithets including ‘bin chicken’ and ‘dump chook’. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.

Hoon operation (Word of the Month for July 2015)

Hoon 1

 

by the ANDC staff

The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.

Our Word of the Month for July 2015 is ‘hoon operation’: a police campaign targeting dangerous drivers. This term goes back to the early 2000s. The word ‘hoon’ in Australian English goes back to the early 20th century when it referred to a pimp. Since the 1980s ‘hoon’ has been applied to young people who drive cars dangerously. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.