Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 21 June 2021
Wrap up for a doona day
Aussie Word of the Week
Brr. With winter frosting up the windows, we decided it was time to wrap up for a doona day and explore some chilly slang. No one wants to go outside during winter. That's why the doona day exists, a kind of sanctioned sickie or mental health day in which you slop about the house in pyjamas and snuggle up on the couch with your doona. Sounds perfect. You might need an extra blanket when the lazy wind is blowing, that's a bitterly cold wind, too lazy to go around you so it cuts through you instead. If the wind keeps blowing you might be in for a one-dog night. That is, a reasonably cold night on the dog scale that runs from one dog to five. This piece of slang arose from the bushmen's practise of sleeping with their dogs. The colder the night the more dogs needed to stay warm. Unless you're a professional dog walker, I hope you never encounter a five-dog night! Wrap up and stay warm, lest you catch the dreaded lurgy! 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 14 June 2021
Not happy, Jan!
Aussie Word of the Week
Sometimes an advertisement or other seemingly innocuous jingle worms its way not just into our ears but into our culture. Not happy, Jan is one such phrase. Originally popularised by an infamous and much parodied Yellow Pages TV commercial, not happy, Jan has remained an Australian catchphrase since first airing in 2000. In the advert, a manager realises that her staff member 'Jan' has neglected to place an ad in time, causing her to express her irritation by yelling not happy, Jan! out a window. Jan lives on even if we no longer flick through the Yellow Pages. Rewatching the advert inspired us to look for other words and phrases that express annoyance and irritation. After sieving through many, many swear words, we found two. Lemony means annoyed, as in, I got lemony at the kid. This piece of Aussie slang dates back to the 1940s. Formerly common, it is now scarce, perhaps because it left a bitter taste in the mouth (yes, I went there). The second piece of slang is cheesed off, meaning irritated or annoyed. How good is cheesed off? It's the perfect way for fed up people to express their displeasure without resorting to stronger language. To see which Aussie catchphrases have stood the test of time, check out our catchphrases and memes blog. 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 7 June 2021
Skol these drinking words
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we have stirred up a cocktail of drinking related slang words. Lets start at the beginning of a typical Aussie night out. Pres refers to a gathering at a private home before a social event elsewhere, usually to drink alcohol, or the drinks consumed at such a gathering. Pres often features sophisticated beverages such as the chateau cardboard, another name for cask wine, or the goon sack as it is affectionately known. To get in to all the slang that flows from the goon sack could take up a month of blogs, but some of our favourites include the dapto briefcase: a cask of cheap wine, named after Dapto, a small township in eastern NSW, and the famous goon of fortune, a drinking game in which bladders of wine casks are hung from a rotating clothes hoist under which players are situated at intervals. The spinning of the hoist determining who drinks next. Don't worry, it isn't all wine casks hung on the washing line here at the Macquarie office. We encourage responsible drinking. Deso is a slang term for a designated driver. You'll need a deso to get you to kick ons. You can probably guess that kick on is the opposite of pres in that it means to carry on a party or other festivites, usually late into the night, often to the point where regret begins sink in as the sun rises. Alcohol related slang differs state by state. Take a deep dive into Aussie beer sizes to find out how each state likes to drink. And yes, we have also waded in (beer soaked of course) into the debate on whether it's spelt skol or scull. 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 1 June 2021
New words for June
With winter on the way, we travelled to the Snowy Mountains and dug these six new words out of the snow drifts. Are you a cheugy? You better hope not. A cheugy is something or someone who follows outdated, sometimes basic trends. To avoid appearing basic, you might want to wrap up in cyber fashion, that is, futuristic or cyberpunk-inspired clothing. Definitely not outdated. Have you used a neopronoun? This is an invented pronoun for a third or non-binary gender to male and female. If you haven't you might get wokescolded. To wokescold is to criticise someone for not having views that are left-leaning or 'woke' enough. What's worse than a wokescold? Phubbing, that's what, which is the act of snubbing someone you are with by playing on a mobile phone. RUDE. Our final word is teenior. Yes, teenior. A senior citizen who is acting like a stereotypical teenager. I'm not sure which age group this will offend more.
Posted on 31 May 2021
You've got two chances: Buckley's and none
You've got two chances: Buckley's and none. This famous phrase likely refers to William Buckley, a convict with an incredible story. Buckley's chance means you've got no chance at all, which is a little odd, considering Buckley managed to elude colonial authorities for over 30 years by escaping into the Australian bush where he lived with Indigenous people until giving himself up. The irony of this phrase emerging from Buckley's story feels very modern and inspired us to look for other chance related slang words. It turns out there are levels of chance. A nonstarter is something which has no chance of success, whereas an open go is a free chance, an unhindered opportunity. Punt is a great Aussie slang word that simply means to take a chance, especially in a gambling context. You might take a punt on a toss-up, which is an even chance, as in the election was a toss-up. While dredging the silty river of the Macquarie database we also found crool, as in he crooled his chance. Meaning to ruin or spoil, crool is basically obsolete, though the purposeful misspelling of cruel feels like a perfect fit for our meme-ruled online world. 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 24 May 2021
Macquarie insult of week: drongo
Aussie Word of the Week
Yes, we really do love insults here at the Macquarie Dictionary. So much so that we are serving up a second round of insults after last week's look at boofheads. This time we're looking at drongos. A drongo is a slow-witted or stupid person: a fool. This great Australian insult was originally an RAAF term for a raw recruit. It first appeared in the early 1940s, but its origin reaches back to the name of the racehorse Drongo, who ran around in the early 1920s. No Phar lap, Drongo was famed for its poor form, never winning a race, and was used as a character in the political cartoons of Sammy Wells that appeared in the Melbourne Herald. Some have suggested that the use of drongo as an insult refers to the spangled drongo, a tropical bird of north-east Australia, but there doesn't appear to be any obvious connection, so we'll stick with the horse story, which is a better yarn anyway. 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 17 May 2021
Read our Word of the Week ya boofhead
Insults are a speciality here at the Macquarie Dictionary. We have access to hundreds of them from the familiar to the obscure. This week boofhead caught our eye. How couldn't it? A boofhead is a person with a large head. That's perhaps the kindest definition of boofhead. It is also a word for an idiot: a stupid person with an oversized head. This definition of boofhead was popularised by the cartoon character Boofhead who appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror from 1941. The most likely origin is that it is a variant of the earlier bufflehead, which had the same meaning, but which literally meant 'buffalo head.' Naturally, anyone with a boofhead is described as boofheaded. The boofhead turtle, a small brown-shelled turtle found in an area extending from the Fitzroy River in Queensland to the Daly River in the NT, is unrelated to human boofheads. 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 17 May 2021
'Hone in' versus 'home in on'
Recently someone asked me, is the phrase home in on or hone in on something? As it turns out, this is a very common confusion! The verb 'hone' comes to us from Old English hān meaning stone or rock, and means to sharpen something e.g. to hone a razor or to improve by careful attention or practice e.g. to hone one's skills. The word 'home' comes from Old English hām meaning home or dwelling, and is related to the German Heim. As a verb, it means to go or return home and is usually used with respect to birds or other animals. As an adjective, it means returning home or having the ability to return home. You might think of a homing target or a homing pigeon. The phrase itself uses the word home: home in on. It is most commonly associated with two senses:
- a. (of guided missiles, aircraft, etc.) to proceed, especially under control of an automatic aiming mechanism towards (an airport, fixed or moving target, etc.).
- b. to proceed towards, as if guided by an external force: *politicians eager to score points in a presidential race homing in on 'family values'. –WEST AUSTRALIAN, 1992.
Posted on 10 May 2021
Would you work a Cashie?
This week's word of the week is not for the ATO. Cashie is slang for a cash in hand job. Usually, an employer slips you a few notes at the end of the day, off the books to avoid paying tax. With the Federal Budget handed down on 11 May, we thought we would tally up some other economic slang words. It isn't just the government that taxes you. Among schoolkids, tax is a levy imposed by a friend on some item you probably won't mind sharing. Think of that friend who implements the chip tax or the chocolate tax. Tax is also interchangeable with steal, as in, he taxed my ruler. Seems not much changes when you leave school. There are plenty of slang words for money, such as big bickies and big bucks. If your wallet is empty you might put the bite on someone, that is, borrow money from them. If you lost all your money gambling, then you might find yourself betting with rubber bands. In other words, making a desperate final bet with the very last of your money after a day of nothing but losses. The rubber bands are the ones that held your massive wad of money at the beginning of the day. Let's hope this isn't the Treasurer's approach to the budget. If you're confused by government and media jargon, we've got you covered for the Federal Budget with our budget words blog. 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 7 May 2021
From Tim Tam slam to visual viagra – the vexed question of trademarks
One of the consistent questions faced by Macquarie Dictionary editors is whether to include a word which is a trademark. In most cases, the answer to this question lies in establishing if the word is used generically to refer to any such product, and not just the one branded with the particular name. For example, if you brave one of the portable toilets at a music festival, you’re visiting a portaloo. It doesn’t matter what brand of portable loo we use, we tend to call them all portaloos. While Portaloo is a trademark, the word is now used to refer to any portable toilet – it has become generic. This often happens with the name of the first, widely used product of its kind – think of hoover, kleenex, biro. It also helps if the name is catchy – portaloo is a case in point. The Macquarie Dictionary includes those words which have spread in use from just the particular brand that carried the name in the first place to being used to refer to the whole class of items, no matter who the manufacturer or producer is. Manufacturers are, understandably, very keen to protect their trademarks and are often not happy when the name of their product is used for any similar product. While you might think wider use of the name would be considered a good thing, it is actually seen as weakening the manufacturer’s brand. It is important for dictionary editors to carry out careful research on community usage of a trademarked word before committing to entering it with a generic definition. Some words that were once (and in some cases, still are) trademarks may surprise you:
- blockout (sunscreen)
- ouija board
- bowser (petrol)
- transcendental meditation
- Hell’s Angel
Posted on 6 May 2021
We're still not here to f*ck spiders (NSFW)
A couple of years ago, we delved into the world of crude Australian sarcasm and examined the bluntest example we could find of this in ... not here to fuck spiders. This, along with its circumspect cousins, ... not here to put socks (or shoes) on caterpillars, and ... not here to lick stamps are generally used to mean 'well, I’m not here to waste time'. I was delighted to hear the phrase again recently while watching the world premiere of Rupaul's Drag Race Down Under (the team have discussed drag queens and Drag Race before in our podcast on Polari). I was interviewed about the swearing on the show by Patrick Lenton at Junkee, but there is a special place in my heart for this particular phrase. As an editor at Macquarie Dictionary, it’s part of my job to investigate words and phrases regardless of their nature. I do have to admit, it’s much more interesting researching the usage of these types of colourful lexical items than whether the scientific name of a certain species of grass has changed. And now, thanks to one contestant on Drag Race Down Under, Art Simone, perhaps the phrase not here to fuck spiders will end up going global.
Posted on 4 May 2021
Five snappy new words for your reading pleasure
May the fourth be with you. Feel the force with these five new words we are keeping track of here at the Macquarie Dictionary office. Delete those dating apps and throw your phone out the window because advo-dating is the latest way to find The One. Advo-dating is dating based on political and social activism leanings. Once you've found The One who leans your way on the political spectrum perhaps you could share a conti roll on your first date? That is, a crusty bread roll filled with Italian deli meats, cheese and salad. Yum. Unfortunately, dating isn't all conti rolls and perfect matches. Women who use dating apps are often subjected to abuse from the man they reject. This is known as rejection violence. Stepping away from the dating arena and into safer under water territory, we have been tracking the shark stick, a firearm often used underwater to protect against sharks. Even a dogfish wouldn't fetch a shark stick. Finally, vaccinations have been in the news a lot lately. Have you heard about vaccine nationalism? This is when a nation prioritises the inoculation of its own citizens over assisting other less-developed nations. Vaccine nationalism has led to a lot of nations taking jabs at each other.