Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 11 November 2020
Word of the Year 2020 from around the world
At the Macquarie Dictionary, we are preparing to announce which word survived the battle royale of 2020 to come out on top as Word of the Year. Cancel culture claimed the crown in 2019, while Me Too took the top prize in 2018. Although we can't go there, I can confirm that the rest of the world still exists and that dictionaries from around the globe are announcing their Word of the Year winners. Collins have announced their Word of the Year as lockdown. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic looms large in their shortlist, with coronavirus, social distancing, self-isolate and key worker all making their final selection, while furlough, a British government scheme similar to the Australian Jobkeeper program, also made the list. It’s no surprise that quite a few of the words on Collins Word of the Year 2020 shortlist have one big thing in common: the pandemic. Something that changed everyone’s lives so profoundly – leaving no country or continent untouched – was bound to have a significant impact on our language. BLM, MEGxit, TikToker and mukbang rounded out their shortlist. Mukbang featured on the Macquarie Dictionary shortlist for the 'internet' category in 2019. The Australian National Dictionary Centre have announced their Word of the Year as iso. Not only is iso distinctively Australian in usage, it has also been linguistically productive by combining with other words to form compounds such as iso baking, iso bar, iso cut, and iso fashion. Once again, COVID loomed large in the selection with Covid-normal and bubble (as in travel bubble) making their shortlist alongside Black Summer and driveway, a reference to the ANZAC Day vigils Australians took part in as a replacement for the usual ANZAC Day dawn services. Dictionary.com have named their Word of the Year as pandemic. From our perspective as documenters of the English language, one word kept running through the profound and manifold ways our lives have been upended—and our language so rapidly transformed—in this unprecedented year. That word is pandemic, our 2020 Word of the Year. We will keep this blog updated as announcements roll in from other dictionaries, including the Australian National Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Oxford Dictionary, the American Dialect Society and more.
Posted on 9 November 2020
Revving up the Balmain bulldozer
Aussie Word of the Week
Ah, the smell of peak hour traffic, don't you just love it? Well, no, but while you're on the school run, you might find yourself surrounded by a fleet of Balmain bulldozers. A Balmain bulldozer is a derogatory term for a city-only four-wheel drive. This is a vehicle owned by someone living in an urban area and rarely, if ever, used for off-road driving. On holiday, these vehicles stick to the highway and stay well away from outback dirt roads. Balmain bulldozer is only one of a legion of names for these 4WDs. In Sydney alone they are known by the following: Balmoral bulldozer, Double Bay tractor, Mosman tractor, North Shore tank and Turramurra tractor. They are also commonly known as wanker tanks. In fact, just about every city in Australia has a slang name for these urban road warriors. The Melbourne equivalent is Toorak tractor, also known as a Toorak taxi. Perth has the Dalkeith tractor, Adelaide the Burnside bus, and Brisbane the Kenmore tractor. Basically, stick the name of an affluent suburb in front of any large vehicle and you have yourself a suitably snarky name. Beep beep. Drive safe. 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 November 2020
Put some onions on that democracy sausage
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we have a piece of chargrilled Aussie slang we can't wait to slather in sauce and sink our teeth into. That's right, we're taking a bite out of the famous democracy sausage. Though it's not a Federal election year, we thought there was enough voting going on around our states and in a certain other country overseas to inspire us to fire up the barbecue. A democracy sausage is a sausage sandwich (or a sausage in bread, or a sausage sizzle...) which a voter can obtain at a polling booth on polling day. This patriotic sausage has become so embedded in Australian culture that on election day you can follow a live map of where voters are chowing down. Democracy sausage has cultural clout. It was the Australian National Dictionary's 2016 word of the year. Perhaps even more famous than the democracy sausage is the cultural phenomenon of the sausage sizzle. Generally, a sausage sizzle is a barbecue at which only sausages are cooked, especially as a fundraising event. We welcomed these grand events back a couple of months ago after they were put on ice during lockdown. With hot days returning, we look forward to towns and suburbs filled with the smell of the sausage sizzle. 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 26 October 2020
Counting our blue swimmers
Aussie Word of the Week
This blog was inspired by the blue swimmer, which as well as being a kind of crab turns out to be a slang name for a ten-dollar note. You might have been tapping your card more than handling notes lately, so here is a reminder of what it's like to handle cold hard cash. Australia's colourful bank notes are known by many colloquial names. The twenty-dollar note is referred to as a lobster, while the fifty-dollar note is called a pineapple, and don't we all want to get our hands on a few jolly green giants, that is, hundred-dollar notes? And what about the dozens of other slang terms relating to money. Well, are you cashed-up and spending your chaff like it's water? Perhaps your dosh is running low and you've been left counting chickenfeed? Are you a soft touch, that is, a generous soul who readily lends money, or are you a stingy miser? Hopefully you aren't broke to the wide: bankrupt, or spending funny money, that is, money made by dubious or dishonest means. In fact, there are so many slang words relating to money that we can't possibly recount them all here. See you on pay 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.
Posted on 19 October 2020
Something sweet for the Word of the Week
Aussie Word of the Week
We've got a sugar rush of Aussie slang for you to chew on, so sit down and unwrap this week's Word of the Week. A lolly is a sweet or piece of confectionery. Particular to Australia and New Zealand, lolly has been part of Aussie slang since the 1850s. A conversation lolly is a sugary lolly with a conversational, often romantic, sentiment impressed into it. These have been part of the Aussie diet since the 1890s. Lolly water is a carbonated soft drink and sometimes used to refer to cordial. If this blog is getting too sickly sweet for you, good news, there are a few non-sugar related uses of lolly in Aussie slang. Lolly can mean money or dosh, as in I'm running out of lolly. It can also refer to your head: to do your lolly is to lose your temper. Lolly legs can be either long, skinny legs, or, a tall, lanky person with long legs, while lolly bags is a synonym for speedos. We'll leave that one up to your imagination. 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 12 October 2020
Bring on the ringer
Aussie Word of the Week
You think that merino woollen jumper you’re wearing just came to you beautiful and soft. No! You are wearing that jumper thanks to the work of a ringer! A ringer is the fastest shearer in a shearing shed. Recorded since the 1870s, the word comes from an earlier, now obsolete, sense, where a ringer was any person or thing that was superlatively good. A snagger is the opposite of a ringer: a shearer who works roughly or inexpertly. I reckon we have probably all had our hair cut by a snagger at some point. The meaning of ringer has morphed and changed as so many other slang words do. One meaning in use since the 1930s is found in sport, where a ringer is an athlete or horse entered in a competition under false representations as to their identity or ability. Just imagine if your local soccer team fielded Aussie legend Tim Cahill upfront. Ringer, as in dead ringer or dead ring, is a person or thing that closely resembles another. Let's hope the ringer running on for the opposition is a dead ringer for Tim Cahill and not the real player. 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 11 October 2020
Fawning over Aussie fauna
Australia has some of Earth’s most unique fauna. We have animals like the platypus and echidna that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. And we love them. We’ve even put them on our money. But deep down we know that really they’re priceless, and what better to celebrate them then through internet memes? There is the bin chicken, also known as the Australian white ibis, which has a habit of rummaging in garbage bins for food and harassing local park goers for their lunch. They are a cultural phenomenon that shows now signs of slowing down and have even been given the David Attenborough treatment with a documentary parody. And then you’ve got the drop bear, those aggressive koalas that drop out of trees onto unsuspecting people below. The urban legend can be seen in the flesh in this interview with a UK journalist (any Aussie would tell you it’s unbelievable she made it out alive). We also have the sweet, adorable quokka with it’s tiny smile evolved specifically for the perfect selfie. It was back in 2019 when animal whisperer and actor, Chris Hemsworth, visited Rottnest Island and took this snap with one of Australia’s finest specimens. Look at those cheeks! But Hemsworth should start watching his back because boomers (no, not those ones we mean these ones) are starting to get really ripped and looking for a fight. If only we had listened to the milkshake duck back in 2016! As you can see the internet can’t get enough of our Aussie animals icons. So let us know what your favourite Aussie animal urban legend or internet sensation is in the comments below!
Posted on 6 October 2020
Six new words to watch
October is here. The weather is heating up, and though the footy finals have been moved from their traditional slots, you can console yourself with these six competitive words to watch. There are only two pandemic-related words this month: corona corridor and maskhole. The former isn't as menacing as it sounds but is actually a route such as an air corridor established to allow movement within a travel bubble (which you may recall from this batch of new words back in July). Maskhole is an anti-masker, or someone who refuses to wear a mask, a play on, well...we're sure you can figure it out. Futch refers to people exhibiting both butch and femme characteristics, while a letterati is a person who frequently writes 'letters to the editor.' We hear regularly from prominent letterati in the Macquarie Dictionary inbox and wouldn't have it any other way. Our final word to watch is wokefishing. A play on catfishing, wokefishing is when someone pretends to have progressive views on dating apps to ensnare a partner but doesn't hold them in real life. More -fishing words which is also relevant on dating apps are hatfishing and blackfishing. Could dating be any more confusing? 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 5 October 2020
Chuck out the Word of the Week
Aussie Word of the Week
This week's Word of the Week is a versatile piece of Aussie slang that often arrives in chunks. Chuck means, among other things, to vomit, as in he chucked up on my carpet! Lovely. Thankfully chuck also has some less gross meanings. In Australia certain things are chucked rather than 'done' or 'taken'. For instance, when driving you almost invariably chuck a U-ie, or chuck a left or right. If you jump into a pool in order to make an enormous splash then you chuck a bombie. If you quit a bad habit then you chuck it, as in I smoked for years before I decided to chuck it. Chuck has also been used as older slang meaning to reject or spurn: She's chucked me for another bloke. As you can see, Aussies really like to chuck things, so we'll chuck this blog and see you next week when we'll have another piece of exceptional Aussie slang. 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 29 September 2020
Word of the Year: a look at past winners
Yes, that's right, as 2020 creeps towards 2021, we at Macquarie Dictionary HQ are gathering our committee of wordsmiths to decide on our Word of the Year (and what a year it has been!) Last year's winner cancel culture, still has relevance in 2020 but has been somewhat overshadowed by events since it took out the crown in December. In 2018, Me Too was the Word of the Year, while the infamous milkshake duck was the 2017 choice. Each year, Macquarie Dictionary invites you to vote for the People's Choice Word of the Year on top of our Committee's Choice. Last year, robodebt was voted as the People's somewhat controversial choice. We can only imagine what it might be this year. Only once did the Committee's and People's Choices select the same winner. In 2015, everyone agreed that captain's call was a worthy Word of the Year. Voting for the People's Choice Word of the Year for 2020 opens in November. For a preview of words that might make it on to our 75 word longlist, check out our blogs of 'words to watch' from throughout the year:
- January - featuring the controversial Karen generation and poo jogger.
- February - we take on influencer fraud in our Tassie tuxedos.
- March - have you been seened?
- April - featuring COVID-19 and the coinciding infodemic.
- May - stop doomsurfing and put on a nicecore movie.
- June - grab a dalgona coffee, this one is a thumb stopper.
- July - join our travel bubble for some astrotourism.
- August - attain blood harmony, also sky puppies!
- September - watch out for wolf warriors and snapping handbags.
Posted on 28 September 2020
Divvying up our slang words
Aussie Word of the Week
Aussies love sticking a bet on the races, particularly at Melbourne Cup time. If you're lucky enough to win big you might find it in the kindness of your heart to divvy up the winnings with your family and friends. Divvy comes in verb or noun form, the latter meaning a dividend (which is where the word divvy comes from in the first place) or profit – often gained illegally, picture balaclava-clad burglars dividing sacks of loot between them. The verb form means to divide something up, as in I'll divvy my winnings with you. Divvy has a couple of other interesting uses. Given its criminal connotations, it is rather humorous that a divvy van is another name for a police van. This meaning is used all over Australia but is especially common in Victoria. Within the armed forces, divvy is a slang name for an infantry division. This meaning has been in use since World War I, making it perhaps the oldest usage of divvy. 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 September 2020
Are we having a brain fart?
There’s a fundamental rule in dictionary-writing that colloquialisms should be avoided in definitions. The idea is that the language should be neutral in register – not archaic, not so formal as to be stilted, and definitely not colloquial. Idioms should also be avoided – those phrases that carry a meaning which is more than the literal sum of their parts – throw the baby out with the bathwater, bring home the bacon, change one’s tune, etc. This can be a challenge, but we usually get there in the end. However, one word has continued to cause headaches for the editors. It’s fart. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to use fart in definitions if it is not a colloquialism – but, it is... isn’t it? The Macquarie Dictionary gives fart a Colloquial label, as do other dictionaries, but there have been many editorial discussions about this over recent years. Is there a non-colloquial alternative? (The lack of a non-colloquial, non-idiomatic synonym is a standard used by some lexicographers to determine whether or not a word is colloquial.) We could use break wind or pass wind in definitions (neither is colloquial, but both are idiomatic), and expel flatulence (or flatus) through the anus, which is neither idiomatic nor colloquial, but sits a little oddly as a definition for shoot a fairy or drop one’s lunch. Or for ring ripper – a noisy expulsion of flatus from the anus?? At present, you’ll find fart in Macquarie definitions for the following aromatic words and phrases: air biscuit, bottom burp, cropdusting, fluff, raspberry tart, ring ripper, smelly, trouser trumpet, blow off, shoot a fairy, drop one’s guts, let go, let off, drop (or open) one’s lunch, open one’s lunch box, pop off, blue-flame. So our problem remains. The tug-of-war between committing the heinous crime of using a colloquialism in a definition and using the equally heinous 'expel flatulence through the anus' is evenly balanced. Let’s hope there’s an answer in the wind.