Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 27 June 2022
Aussie Word of the Week
Sit back and watch the sparks fly. This week's word of the week is arc up. To arc up means to become upset or livid with anger, to 'flare up' like a welder's torch. We all get upset, luckily Aussie English contains a plethora of words to describe when we become angry. Does reading this blog make you go ballistic, as in, explode with anger? If you're up in North Queensland or the NT, you might burr up instead. Even gotten so angry it's caused you to fart sparks or spit chips? Do you let it rip, give free rein to anger or passion, when you see a spelling mistake, or go off, vent anger? Two favourite red-faced, angry Aussie words are ropeable and spew. Ropeable dates back to the 1870s and is still going strong. It means seething with anger to the extent that you are literally 'fit to be tied.' Spew primarily means to vomit but is also frequently used to mean that you are extremely angry, as in, I was spewing when I read the latest Macquarie 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 22 June 2022
LGBTIQ+ Slang for Pride Month
In recognition of Pride Month, a month of celebration that recognises LGBTIQ+ people, Macquarie Dictionary has gathered a few slang terms commonly used in queer communities. A lot of slang originates in or was popularised by American ballroom, vogue and drag culture of New York City in the 1980s. First off is the term throwing shade, meaning to make critical or scornful remarks. Throwing shade can be seen used in early literature, such as Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. However, the term was regularly used in New York City’s ballroom and vogue culture, a culture that was predominantly working class, African-American and Latino, and gender-nonconforming. The term gained further popularity due to Rupaul’s Drag Race. Next up is spill the tea, meaning to gossip or divulge information, especially of a sensitive nature. The tea or ‘T’ stands for truth, so to spill the tea is to state the truth. This is also often expressed in a variety of ways, such as encouraging someone by asking What’s the tea? This is another term that was popularised in the ballroom and vogue culture. Vogue, or voguing, is a modern house dance style that emerged in the 1980s and evolved from the 1960s Harlem ballroom scene. It gained mainstream attention and popularity in the 1990s with the release of Madonna’s song and music video Vogue. There are three distinct types of voguing: old way, new way and vogue fem. Voguing is made up of five elements: duckwalk, catwalk, hands, floorwork and spins and dips. Finally we have the term house, used historically to mean a family regarded as consisting of ancestors and descendants. A house functioned as an alternative family that provided shelter and support for predominantly African-American and Latino LGBTIQ+ individuals who felt ostracised by conventional support systems. Houses would have traditional roles: the house mother or house father and the children. Houses would compete or ‘walk’ in balls together to win trophies and money. Celebrate Pride Month by listening to our podcast on the secret language Polari or read more about the meaning of LGBT on our blog
Posted on 20 June 2022
Aussie Word of the Week
Toodle-em-buck was a game of chance played mainly by children in Victoria back in the 1920s for gambling on horseraces, especially the Melbourne Cup. The game consisted of a wooden skewer, a cotton reel, and a cardboard disc marked in sectors, each bearing a horse's name and betting odds proportional to sector size. A pointer showed the winner when the disc stopped spinning. Children are the creators and players in many games. Bedlam, for instance, is the Queensland name for the schoolyard chasing game British bulldog, in which a group of children run repeatedly through an area guarded by other children. Those who are caught each time join forces with their catchers until only one child remains uncaught and is the winner. Brandings is another schoolyard game. In brandings, a tennis ball is thrown at the other players by the person who is `in'. The person hit is then `in.' Brandings is is the common term in NSW, ACT and Tasmania. In the other states it is usually known as brandy. The idea is to throw the ball hard enough to brand the person hit – in other words, to leave a glowing red mark. Ouch! For some reason, it's banned by schoolteachers the country over. We couldn't sign off without mentioning that Anzac Day staple, two-up: the classic Australian gambling game in which two coins are thrown off a kip into the air so that they spin. Bets are laid on whether they fall heads or tails – a fall of one head and one tail requiring the coins to be tossed again. That's game over for this week. 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 13 June 2022
Heard it on the bush telegraph
Aussie Word of the Week
'Ooo I heard it through the ... bush telegraph?' Ok, so it might not fit into your beautiful karaoke rendition of Marvin Gaye but the bush telegraph is the outback rumour mill. So you can consider it the Aussie version of the grapevine: the network of personal and other contacts through which information ranging from gossip to substantive information is passed informally. Mulga wire is another Aussie name for the rural gossip mill. Chatting on the mill or the wire is called chewing the fat. If you're a regular on the bush telegraph you might be considered a dorry: a gossip. The name originates from the character Dorrie Evans, an insufferable stickybeak and gossip from the 1970s Australian TV soap Number 96. Goss is a common Aussie abbreviation of gossip but perhaps the most well known of all is yarn. Mainly meaning to talk or chat, the verb sense of yarn means to gossip. Backbiting is a more malicious form of gossip. To backbite is to attack someone's character or reputation secretly. Don't worry though, if you've been accused of being a gossipmonger, you're just doing what comes naturally to human beings. 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 6 June 2022
Dry as a blacksmith's apron
Aussie Word of the Week
Researching words and definitions is hard work. Punching them into the Dictionary makes me as dry as a blacksmiths apron, in other words, thirsty. The Australian landscape can be a harsh place. So naturally we've invented interesting ways to say we need a drink. For example, to exclaim that a man's not a camel! is a way to say 'give me a drink before I die of thirst!' If you're suffering from polydipsia (excessive thirst) you might do a perish if you don't get a drink. Do a perish is old Aussie slang for dying from thirst or suffering a lack of substance. If you are crude you might say you are as dry as a frog's tit in the middle of the desert. In other words, dying of thirst. A couple of other words related to thirst but not in the sense that you need a drink are the well known thirst for knowledge and thirst trap. To have a thirst for knowledge means you really want to read through the entire Macquarie blog archive to learn about quirky slang words. It also means you are curious. A thirst trap is a social media post, especially a selfie of oneself looking sexy or having fun, intended to get the attention of a specific person or group of people. 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 2022
Jump in for June’s new words
Welcome back to another edition of the monthly New Words blog! The first word on our list names a concept I think a lot of people will be familiar with. It’s wishcycling: putting something in the recycling without checking that it’s suitable. Packing peanuts, shopping receipts, coffee cups, soft plastics… after learning how many things you can’t put in your recycling bin, my own wishcycling days are long gone: I might even call myself a ‘fearcycler’ instead. Next up, how about an idea a lot more people should be familiar with? Taking pains to interpret someone’s argument as charitably as possible. That’s basically what it is to steelman an argument. It contrasts with and is derived from straw man, which is to misrepresent an argument that you’re criticising. It’s easy to knock over a man made of straw, but one of steel is harder to topple. Now for something we can’t blame you for not having heard of. A webtoon is a comic published online with a layout suited to computers and smartphones (and our fondness for scrolling endlessly). Webtoons originated in South Korea but are gaining in popularity elsewhere. On the other hand, you probably have heard of The Secret, a famous Australian self-help book (and film) from 2006. It helped popularise the idea that one can manifest things – that is, bring them about through sheer desire, belief, etc. Of course, the word manifest has been in the dictionary for yonks, but this sense is relatively new and seems to have exploded in popularity recently. Our last contender for this month is creching. It’s a zoological term meaning ‘the practice of some animals to form groups to rear their young collectively’. You might be acquainted with it from the behaviour of lions and penguins. What do you think? Should these words be added to the Macquarie Dictionary?
Posted on 30 May 2022
Rough around the edges
Aussie Word of the Week
This week's blog is a bit rough around the edges. Do you know a roughie? That is, a rude or crude person. I'm sure we've all been a roughie at times. Another definition of roughie is a swindle or shrewd trick, as in, he put a roughie over Bill yesterday. Perhaps because of the convict roots of Modern Australia, Australian English contains a lot of slang words for swindle. Con is an obvious one, or con job: a practised confidence trick. Bilk is another. Dating back to the 17th Century, to bilk is to cheat, swindle or to evade a payment on a debt. Eelie is an obsolete Aussie underworld slang word for a confidence trick or the ruse by which a swindle is affected, probably extracted from eelerspee, an obsolete word for a con artist. Two more swindling words Australians might be more familiar with are dudded and rort. You can read more about rorts elsewhere on our blog, or you can speak to your local MP, har har. In case you're feeling ripped off we'll throw in a bonus word: slanter, a swindle or other piece of dishonest trickery. Slanter has been Aussie slang since the 1840s and is still common in the racing game. Originally spelt schlinter or schlente, it means counterfeit in South African English and comes from the Dutch or Afrikaans slenter. 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 2022
Review of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia
After a comprehensive, independent examination of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia the book has been reintroduced for sale after it had been temporarily withdrawn. On 15 February Pan Macmillan Publishers put a temporary hold on further supply of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia in light of concerns raised by some members of the public. A comprehensive, independent examination of the book has since been undertaken by Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Aaron Corn of the University of Melbourne. They engaged numerous expert consultants in the process, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. All strongly endorsed the publication of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia and saw no reasonable justification for its withdrawal from sale. Review of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia Professor Dr Marcia Langton AO, BA (Hons), ANU, PhD Macq. U, D. Litt. ANU, FASSA Associate Provost | Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor | Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous StudiesIndigenous Studies Unit | Centre for Health EquityMelbourne School of Population and Global HealthThe University of Melbourne Professor Aaron Corn, PhD Inaugural Director, Indigenous Knowledge InstituteThe University of Melbourne As the Introduction explains clearly, this Atlas consists of many maps, images, graphs, and charts with captions as expected. It is intended for a younger audience of primary and early secondary students. The General Editors from ANU and Macquarie Dictionary are experts, as are the more than 40 authors. Jasmine Seymour, a Dharug primary school teacher and author of several children’s books, was the Cultural Advisor to the General Editors and it is obvious that she has provided sound and appropriate educational and cultural advice. She also provided exemplary Teachers' Notes in conjunction with Macquarie Dictionary. We would ourselves have taken this approach, which has resulted in an exceptional outcome. This is an ideal resource for many primary school subject areas and levels. It is also an excellent general text that I would recommend to any parents of younger children to have at home. The 26 chapter topics are carefully considered, comprehensive and provide accurate rigorous summaries of the essential information that every child should know about the histories and cultures of Indigenous Australians, as well as Australia’s geography, physical and social. We found nothing in the book that was offensive, inappropriate, or racist. We found no errors of fact and it is clear that the sources of the information presented are the accepted and rigorous ones. Many key events in our history are summarised and illustrated, and many of the entries and illustrations, such as the Indigenous runners in the 2017 NYC Marathon, are surprising and welcome, because of their very positive messages for young Australians. The illustrations are cleverly selected. For example, Charles Perkins with children at the Moree town swimming pool (1965), the Black Lives Matter protest at Australian Parliament House in Canberra (2020), and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (1972) are just some of those selected to offer a comprehensive coverage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement throughout Australia. The enormous diversity of Australian Indigenous languages and cultures is very well represented. The status of these languages is expertly addressed. The decision not to refer primary school children to online language resources such as AustLang and the Gambay map was appropriate as it would create difficulties for both those readers and their teachers. Those resources are usually used by Indigenous language speakers and experts with a sound training in linguistics. It is greatly refreshing to see such a comprehensive consideration of what are usually considered contentious political matters. These, of course, are Australia’s political history. From a population health perspective, we were delighted to see accurate information about alcohol and substance use in the Health and Wellbeing chapter. These topics are usually suppressed but are important points that must be openly discussed in our efforts to improve health and quality of life outcomes. The outstanding feature of the Atlas’s rigorous methodology is the deep collaboration between Indigenous and other experts, as well as Indigenous cultural practitioners. Among the 40 authors, are 10 Indigenous scholars. In addition, there are contributing Indigenous cultural practitioners, as well as other experts from various disciplines, whose work one would expect to see in a book of this kind. The Teachers’ Notes for this book are an especially important contribution and a highly commendable resource. Jasmine Seymour has done tremendous work, covering a huge breadth of topics. Any teacher could find something to use across a wide range of topic areas. The inquiry questions for each chapter blend standard topic knowledge together with questions about Indigenous histories and cultures seamlessly. They range from simple fact-finding to critical thinking about issues and situations. Engagement with local Elders is continuously encouraged throughout, together with activities that are designed to help children learn about their own specific local area, such as finding suitable plants for weaving in their locality. There is astute and rigorous use of scientific thinking and knowledge embedded throughout. More contentious and difficult topics, such as the Stolen Generations, citizenship (or lack thereof), Australia Day, and substance and alcohol abuse, are presented in an objective way that encourages students to draw conclusions by examining facts and evidence. Overall, these Notes offer a framework in which students will learn important information about Australia in tandem in the context of significant associated information about the Indigenous peoples of Australia. The Notes also provide a framework for learning about Australia’s deep history. The material is very well targeted at the age groups specified and treats Indigenous histories and cultures with the same level of respect and value as other material. Importantly, it does not infantilise Indigenous people and their cultures. Published criticisms of this excellent book bear the hallmarks of a style of racism that is extraordinarily difficult to counter, because so few people have the intellectual training to understand the difference between evidence-based accounts of Indigenous Australia and popular mythologies that misrepresent the facts. These criticisms are entirely unreasonable. The proposition that any of this book’s content or its contributors are racist, because they might make people feel uncomfortable, is an increasingly popular strategy employed to silence expert views on politicised ideological grounds. When the material being attacked is of an expert disciplinary nature, we have responsibilities as publishers, editors and authors to reject such critiques and ensure that our experts are able to retain freedom of academic expression. The unconscionable damage to the reputations of the editors and authors in this book is a matter of great concern. They are owed an apology for these uninformed attacks on their integrity. Publishers should beware of such campaigns to silence our experts, disciplinary and cultural, and take their responsibilities to them seriously. Publishers should seek expert comment in future, rather than acquiescing to opportunistic attacks of this kind. We consulted numerous independent colleagues about the Atlas in response to the published attacks against it, all of whom were dismayed that people whose work we respect and use have been so poorly treated. The general consensus however was that all colleagues with whom we spoke, irrespective of background, felt powerless to speak out against such unfounded critiques. There can be no reasonable justification for withdrawing this book from the market. It has taken many years to reach the levels of Indigenous higher education and scholarly research training required for a book of this nature to be collaboratively produced at the high standard this Atlas achieves. That this is now possible is a cause for celebration and an approach that all publishers should seek to emulate. There are certainly reasons why books that do not meet rigorous scholarly and production standards should be withdrawn from sale. There are notable cases where works of fiction based on poor or sham research, for example, have been presented as factual accounts. The fine work presented in this Atlas, however, is not in this category. We therefore endorse this book, as we would any publication produced to this high standard. _______________________________________________ This review was conducted independently, without compensation from the Publisher. The authors were not involved in any part of the development and publication of the Junior Atlas of Indigenous Australia.
Posted on 23 May 2022
Doing a blockie
Aussie Word of the Week
Take the next left and the next, and another left after that. This week we're doing blockies: a single circuit of a vehicle around a street block, usually doing only left hand turns. As one contributor to the Australian Word Map put it, to do a blockie means, 'to go round the block very fast in a usually noisy car, often done by young men on a Saturday night.' Tasmanians and Victorians are more likely to drive a blockie, while Queenslanders are more likely to do a lappy. In Western Australia a blockie is known as a bog lap. Being a nation of car lovers means that Australians have created a plethora of car and driving related slang. We picked up some of our favourites from the Macquarie database. Do you drive a banger? A banger is a beat-up old car. Can you bag it, as in, can you drive your banger fast? In contrast to a banger, a beast is a great big hulking car. Waiting at the front of the traffic queue in your beast? A burn-off is to drive off at speed from the traffic lights in order to beat someone else and thereby show how fab you are because you've got a fast car. If you're interested in other driving terms, check out our blogs on grey nomads and doof doof cars. 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 16 May 2022
Political slang: from gaffes to faceless men
Aussie Word of the Week
With the Federal election almost upon us, we delved into our database to help you make sense of the slang and jargon your candidates have been spouting on the campaign trail. We've heard a lot about the dreaded gaffe during this election campaign. A gaffe is defined as a social blunder. Someone who is inclined to make slips of the tongue or cause embarrassment in some way is deemed gaffe-prone. A particuarly bad gaffe could be considered a shocker. Have you heard of the faceless men? No, they aren't a secret assassins guild, they are men who exercise political power without having to take on personal or public responsibility for their actions. Oh, hang on, I guess they are a sort of secret guild after all. The House is a local nickname Canberrans have given to Parliament House. Who lives at Parliament House? Well, pollies of course. This shortened form of politician has been part of the Aussie lexicon since the 1960s. Swing isn't just what children do at the play park, it's also the measure of the electoral support transferred from one party to another, as expressed in percentage points, between a party's vote at one election and its vote at the next. We can't talk about political slang in election season without mentioing the democracy sausage. You can read more about what is possibly Australia's greatest democratic tradition on our 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 9 May 2022
Can you hack it?
Aussie Word of the Week
This week, we have hacked out a space for all the hacks. When we searched hack in our database we had one election inspired word in mind: party hack, a long-time, loyal member of a political party, especially one who does menial work for the party, but there were just so many definitions of hack that we couldn't resist exploring this versatile word further. Another election related hack is a political hack: a politician who pursues the narrow goal of ensuring that his or her party is in power, often using methods that are to do with the exercise of power or the pursuit of expediency. Can the political hacks hack it? That is, do they have patience. I'm sure we all know about hackers by now. The Macquarie defines a hacker as a person who is adept at manipulating computer systems, especially someone who achieves unauthorised access to the computer system of a business organisation, government department, etc., or who achieves unauthorised access to a person's digital device, as a phone or tablet computer. In recent years, several types of hackers have emerged. There are ethical hackers: a hacker who attempts to hack into a computer network or device in order to test its level of security, and hacktivists: people who use their ability as hackers to further a political cause. If manipulating computer systems isn't enough you might try your hand at biohacking, a method for managing one's own biology, by using measures to improve it such as meditation, nutritional supplements or therapeutic techniques such as aromatherapy. 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 2 May 2022
Are you a happy little vegemite?
Aussie Word of the Week
At the Macquarie Dictionary we like to spread good cheer. To celebrate our good mood, we rummaged around the Dictionary database in search of words and phrases that express that happiness. That's why this week’s word of the week is happy little vegemite. :) :) :) A happy little Vegemite is a person in a good mood, as in, Look at the happy little Vegemites working away in there. This slang sense first appeared in the 1980s and originated in the well-loved advertising jingle for the spread Vegemite, which first filled Australian airwaves back in 1954. While happy little Vegemite mainly refers to children in a positive sense, there are tons of other happy slang words that encompass adults and children alike. To be happy as Larry means you are extremely happy. This Aussie slang dates from the 1900s but just who this Larry was and how he could have been happy enough to become a byword for joy is unknown. If you're not quite as happy as our friend Larry you can still be a happy camper: a person who is very pleased, though this one originates in the United States and not Australia. As we're partial to a bit of swearing, we couldn't leave off without reminding everyone that you can be as happy as a pig in shit. Now that we're all beatified, we'll call an end to this week's blog. We hope you have a red-letter day. 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.