Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 26 February 2020
If words could kill
If you're a fan of horror, fantasy or just plain crime novels, you've probably come across some interesting (and hypothetical) ways to kill people. Speaking entirely figuratively, we've had a look at some of the more obscure and specific words in the Australian English language to do with killing someone. To start with, there are the generic terms for killing, such as murder, slaughter, eliminate and execute. These can be done in a variety of different ways, so their definitions are quite similar. You can also include massacre and butcher in this list of standard terms for general murder. But from here, it's gets a little more interesting – from a lexicographical perspective. One which arguably belongs with the aforementioned group, but which in some ways stands alone is the word assassinate. Meaning 'to kill by sudden or secret, premeditated assault, especially for political or religious motives', while the means of the murder can vary, the fact that it is done suddenly or secretly sets this particular term apart. On the other hand, take, for example, the oft-cited word defenestrate, which means 'to throw (a person) out of a window'. This is not to say that death would definitely occur which is why death by defenestration is more widely known, but it is an interesting and very particular definition (and a favourite word in our podcast on internet slang). A couple of words that go together thematically if not etymologically are excoriate (from Latin) and dismember (from Middle English). Both words have definitions that revolve around the removal or separation of body parts, ending in death. To excoriate is to 'strip off or remove the skin from', and to dismember is to 'divide limb from limb'. Both visceral, fascinating expressions. And then we have some more elemental forms of death. International news coverage brings with it information on these kinds of deaths, usually as a form of death penalty where it is part of the law of the nation. For example, the electric chair is a tool used to electrocute a person to death. And while hanging is the means to the end, the ultimate cause of death might be suffocation, strangulation (and in some rare and obscure cases, to burke, which is 'to murder, as by suffocation, so as to leave no or few marks of violence.' So named for W Burke, hanged at Edinburgh in 1829 for murders of this kind). Other methods used in these situations are to shoot (with a gun) or stone a person to death. And finally, something which stands alone is immolation. While the definition of this word is 'to kill as a sacrificial victim; offer in sacrifice', due to widespread reports of people self-immolating by setting themselves on fire, occasionally, the fiery aspect of this can get confused with the definition of the word. But, like assassinate, the method of murder can vary, but the motive must stay the same. We are tentatively curious about what other words like these may be out there, and aware that in theory, you could put 'death by' in front of any word to create a new and horrifying meaning, such as death by spoon, or death by platypus, or some such.
Posted on 24 February 2020
Open up the mystery bag
Aussie Word of the Week
Australians are known worldwide for their love of a sausage sizzle, so this week we are honouring the mystery bag, a clever nickname for sausages that speaks to the essense of mystery in every bite. What's in there? We don't know, we don't want to know, just pass the tomato sauce. Aussies have a plethora of names for sausages and the ways and contexts in which we eat them. Snag is perhaps the most famous slang term for sausages, followed closely by banger. Many of us grab a sausage sanga down at the local hardware store. Let's not forget the infamous democracy sausage, a trend that lights up social media during elections and has caught out Aussie politicians on the campaign trail. If you know any regional names for sausages, let us know in the comment section below. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 23 February 2020
LGBT and the letters in between
In the dictionary, we have entries for many iterations of the acronym that represents the diverse range of the rainbow community. The acronym started as LGB, which stood for lesbian, gay and bisexual. Over the decades, it has been added to many times to become LGBTQIA for which the letters stand for the following words. These abbreviations are sometimes followed by a plus sign (+) to represent inclusiveness of all minority gender identities and sexual orientations. We have also discussed binary and non-binary words for gender on our blog and would love to hear of any words we may have missed.The community is also represented by the rainbow flag, a flag combining six horizontal stripes of colour: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, flown with the red stripe on top as occurs in a natural rainbow; the symbol of the LGBTIQ movement. lesbian a female homosexual. gay (especially of a male) homosexual. bisexual a person sexually attracted to people of two particular genders, especially as of males and females. transgender of or relating to a person whose gender identity is different from their physiological gender as designated at birth. queer (or questioning) a person who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, transgender, or otherwise not heterosexual. intersex an individual possessing both male and female physical characteristics. asexual a person who does not experience sexual desire or attraction to others. + including but not limited to ally and pansexual.
Posted on 21 February 2020
Seven new words to watch
Our previous six new words blog inspired a lot of discussion in the comments section of the Macquarie website. Below are seven more new words to sink your teeth into. This month features a large portion of new health and fashion words. Hormotional is the feeling of a hormone related emotional reaction. Tassie tuxedo is a slang term for a puffer jacket, while shrinkles are the resulting wrinkles left behind after rapid weight-loss. A toblerone tunnel is the difficult to achieve gap between the top of your thighs. I would prefer to have the toblerone. We also have BirthStrike, the social movement in which women refuse to procreate in response to climate change. Climate fears also featured prominently in our Word of the Year results. Rounding out the list we have Dual screening, something most of us do every day, we might even catch some influencer fraud while scrolling on our multiple screens. Let us know if you have any other suggestions. We are always happy to hear new words, no matter how big or small a usage they may have. Be sure to vote for some of these when we post them on our Instagram stories. See other words suggested to the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 18 February 2020
Binary and non-binary gender words
The words that we use to talk about gender are always evolving. At the heart of these changes are the differences between the terms binary and non-binary (or enby, one of our runner-up Words of the Year) in relation to gender. The third definition of binary means 'of or relating to a person who identifies as either male or female'. While non-binary in this context, covers all the genders outside of these two identities. Scroll down to find a table of definitions related to this concept. Due to the fluid and changing vocabulary being used in this public discussion, some words have shifted into the mainstream and made their way into the Macquarie Dictionary. While by no means a definitive list, following are some examples of words to do with gender that fall outside of the binary. Something we (and many linguists and lexicographers around the world) have discussed is the usage of they as a gender-neutral pronoun. We had a good chat about it in our podcast, Word for Word, which you can listen to here. But in writing, there are a number of ways to avoid talking about binary gender. For example, the honorific Mx, which has two meanings. One is as a title prefixed to the name of a person who does not identify as male or female but as a third neutral gender. And the second meaning for Mx is a title prefixed to the name of a person who does not wish to disclose their gender. Another written device is the use of s/he to represent he or she, to avoid being gender-specific. But the most common use for this purpose is they, which can be used in a similar manner. The use of they, them, and their as non-gender-specific singulars (as in a doctor and their patients) has always had currency in spoken English and is now increasingly accepted in written English. This use of they gives rise to the form themself for the reflexive pronoun by analogy with myself, himself, etc. There are now two meanings for they related to this in the Macquarie Dictionary. The first is 'used with singular force in place of a pronoun such as he or she where the sex of the antecedent is unknown' and the second is 'used with singular force to refer to a person whose gender identity is non-binary or genderqueer.' We would love to hear from you if you know any other gender-related words that should be in the dictionary. Submit your suggestions here. agender identifying as having no gender, whether male, female or non-binary. bigender a gender identity which is two genders, either simultaneously or at different times. cisgender relating to or designating a person whose gender identity matches their physical sex as designated at birth, that is, a person identifying as a female and who has a female body, and a person who identifies as a male and who has a male body. gender fluid of or relating to a person whose gender varies over time, ranging from male to female or any combination of both. genderqueer of or relating to, or designating a person who does not identify as either male or female or who feels that they are a little bit of both, and therefore not fully the stereotype of either gender. theyby a baby raised without a designated gender or stereotypical concepts of gender being imposed, and sometimes without a physiological sex being recorded on their birth certificate. third gender a gender which is neither male or female, but rather one in which a person identifies as both a combination of the two, or as neither, especially in certain non-Western cultures. transgender of or relating to a person whose gender identity is different from their physiological gender as designated at birth.
Posted on 17 February 2020
Pick up the lagerphone
Aussie Word of the Week
Pick up the Batphone and you'll get the dark knight. Pick up the lagerphone and you'll get the sounds of traditional Aussie folk music. A lagerphone is a homemade musical instrument consisting of beer bottle tops loosely nailed to a broom handle. A percussion instrument, the lagerphone is struck (hopefully) in time with music using a small piece of hardwood. Some of you may have seen this instrument used by humble buskers in city streets, alongside a bottle xylophone (made with long necks of course). Australia is also known for its Aboriginal instruments, the most famous of which is the didjeridoo, a well-known wind instrument. The name didjeridoo was coined by European settlers in intimation of its sound. It is sometimes spelt as didjeridu, in line with Aboriginal spelling conventions. There is also the bullroarer, a long piece of wood attached to a string that is traditionally used in religious rites. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 10 February 2020
It's okay to be all alone like a country dunny on Valentine's Day
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are honouring our readers who are flying solo this Valentine's Day. For anyone who is all alone like a country dunny, Macquarie Dictionary is here for you. A country dunny is a traditional rural toilet, consisting of a small shed furnished with a lavatory seat placed over a sanitary can, or a pit, located a decent distance from the house. Hence, to be all alone like a country dunny is to be totally alone. The dunny itself has an interesting history. First recorded in the 1930s, it is a shortening of dunniken, which had been around since the 1840s, but has now completely died out, being last seen in the 1960s. Dunniken itself dates back to the 18th century in Britain where it was common in dialect and cant, and seems to be a compound of danna 'excrement' (probably from the word dung) and ken 'a house'. For the most part, the days of the outside dunny are finished. However, toilet blocks, say at school, or in a caravan park, are still known as the dunnies. Perhaps this knowledge can soothe you if you are indeed all alone like a country dunny. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 10 February 2020
Foreign affairs: bruschetta, lingerie and other words from abroad
Did you know that forte, as in 'His forte is portrait photography', which we pronounce 'faw-tay in Australian English, is actually pronounced like ‘fort’ in French, with a silent ‘e’? Or that the sch in bruschetta is pronounced ‘sk’ rather than ‘sh’ in Italian, so ‘broos'ketuh’ rather than ‘broo'shetuh’? Similarly, you might think that the confusing pronunciation of the letters ie at the end of lingerie as ‘ay’ comes from French, when, in actual fact, the French do pronounce it ‘ee’. And we won’t even start on the first syllable on that word. We often do this in English – we try to pronounce words from other languages in a way that sounds ‘foreign’, resulting in pronunciations that reflect neither the rules of English nor the original language. Other languages do this too. The phenomenon even has a name – hyperforeignism. Hyperforeignism is a type of hypercorrection, the process of trying to be so correct that we slip into incorrectness, with results like between you and I. We are aware that foreign words are subject to different spelling and pronunciation rules but, understandably, are vague about the particular rules and differences across languages. This leads us, sometimes, to generalise. For example, although we tend to pronounce the u in Punjab like that in Mumbai and Buddha, the original pronunciation is actually closer to ‘pun’. The written form of Punjab in English dates back to British colonial rule, so, like curry and suttee, is intended to be pronounced according to standard English spelling rules. Similarly, French champagne brand Moët is often pronounced by English speakers with a silent ‘t’ (‘moh-ee’), generalising a French pronunciation rule (not pronouncing the final letter) to a name that is actually Dutch and so is pronounced more like ‘moh-et’. Another example is the generalisation of the sound /ʒ/ – think the sound in the middle of measure or the French j (bonjour, je ne sais quoi). Although the sound does exist in English, we tend to associate it with ‘foreign’ words (especially French). This leads us to pronounce some foreign words, like Mah jong and Beijing, and sometimes taj and raj, with ‘zh’, even though ‘j’ (/dʒ/) is closer to the original sound. But before you go around ordering ‘brusketta’ and purchasing ‘lanzh-ree’, it is important to remember that hyperforeignisms have often become established pronunciations – so you might get some weird looks! You may end up pronouncing them incorrectly anyway – sound systems differ between languages and so very few loan words will retain their original pronunciation completely. In this way, hyperforeignism is not necessarily mispronunciation it is just another linguistic phenomenon which has made English what it is today.
Posted on 3 February 2020
Baby animal names
Baby animals are a constant source of cooing here at the Macquarie office so we decided to compile a list of baby animal names to go along with our list of collective nouns for animals...
Posted on 3 February 2020
Whatever the reason, last minute ring-ins are always controversial
Aussie Word of the Week
February's first Word of the Week is for all those who were picked last during sports at school. We're talking about ring-ins. You know, when the best player is inexplicably absent from school and you get a belated call up to the lunchtime footy team? A ring-in is a last minute substitute, as in 'Pat couldn't come, so I'm a ring-in.' The word also refers to the act of making a substitution, as in 'Pat isn't coming so I will ring-in Joe.' Ring-in is used across all sports but more typically refers to the horse and greyhound racing industries where horses and dogs are switched out for other runners, sometimes controversially. The word can also take on threatening or even derogatory undertones in other contexts. For instance, a ring-in can refer to a person pretending to be someone else; a phoney, or someone from another place who is considered an outsider. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 31 January 2020
Beautiful words to start the year right
In a world where our words are practical and repetitive (just read any email chain!) we like to collate words that make you sit back and say "beautiful". Below are six words that illuminate the pages of the Macquarie Dictionary. Some glow while others feel peaceful. Which word is the most beautiful to you? Comment below if you think there are any other words worthy of the list and you might see them in an upcoming blog. You can also read the other entries in our beautiful words series here on our blog.
Posted on 27 January 2020
Hop in your paddock-basher
Aussie Word of the Week
Ever find yourself stuck in traffic on a single lane road out in the bush? Chances are you might be beeping your horn at a paddock-basher. Pass any farm and you will see these beat up old vehicles lined up in various stages of rust. Paddock-bashers are often unregistered and primarily used for driving around rural properties, especially fields, an act unsurprisingly known as paddock-bashing, funny that. These vehicles are also known as paddock thrashers, which sounds a bit like thresher, another farm vehicle, or paddy bashers, which sounds a bit like we are about to run the Irish out of town. It isn't all rusted cars and beaten up tractors out in rural Australia. Rather than hop in their paddy basher, some farmers use drones to survey their land. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.