The story of rello, rellie, and other Australian terms ending in ‘ie’ and ‘o’

by Bruce Moore

Bruce Moore is a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, and editor of the Australian National Dictionary (2016). 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.

In 1981 in the Bulletin magazine the Australian writer Kathy Lette uses the term rellie for ‘relative’: ‘Dreaded rellies are not so easily disposed of.’1 In 1987 in a collection of short stories Kathy Lette uses the variant form rello for ‘relative’: ‘Everybody else would have liquid-papered me out of their address books by now, especially the rellos.’2 This use of the –ie (or –y) and –o suffix with abbreviated forms of words is not exclusive to Australia, although it is more common in Australia than elsewhere, and is used in distinctive ways in Australia. The choice of –ie or –o appears to be arbitrary, although the –ie forms are much more common than the –o forms. It is rare to find a term that uses both –ie and –o, as in the case of rellie and rello, but such doublets appear occasionally, as in the older commie and commo for ‘communist’, and the more recent flannie and flanno for ‘flannelette shirt’. Some have argued that the –ie forms are more sympathetic or friendly than the –o forms, but even the examples given in this paragraph show that this is not the case. Continue reading

Words from our Word Box: update 13

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 team

This is the final 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.

dogfood

dogfood – (of a company’s staff) to use a product or service developed by the company before it is commercially available. Also found in the nominal form dogfooding and in the phrase to eat one’s own dogfood. The phrasal form is found in the 1980s and came to prominence in the computer software sector in the 1990s. The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may derive from US advertisements for Alpo dog food, in which the spokesperson refers to feeding the product to his own dogs.

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Schoolies and schoolies week

by Mark Gwynn

Over the coming weeks the Australian tradition of schoolies week will be observed across the country. This is a period of post-examination celebration marking the end of secondary schooling for Year 12 students (schoolies). While these celebrations occur in various locations across Australia they are usually associated with students going to the Gold Coast in Queensland. In Australian English the word schoolie has a longer history than many people may realise.

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