Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 1 September 2020
Spring into six more new words
Welcome to our new words blog, where we share new and topical words, some of which were submitted by you via the suggest a word feature on our website. There is a powerful stretch in the evenings. That's right, winter is finally shuffling off the seasonal stage (to sparse applause, a chilly reception you might say, aha ha) and making room for spring. Everything is new, everything is wonderful! Here are six words for the season of renewal. Going to miss winter? Nurries. That's another way of saying no worries, making this a classic case of short Aussie slang becoming even shorter. If you follow the news, you might have heard about wolf warrior diplomacy, a diplomatic strategy of China in which any criticism from another country is met with an immediate response or retaliation. The strategy is named after the famous Chinese movie Wolf Warrior, which has been described as a Chinese version of Rambo! How would the wolf warriors get on against the snapping handbags? That's a colloquial term for crocodiles. On a creepier note, stalkerware is a type of spyware installed on a user's smartphone without their knowledge. Ew. You might want to zump (end the relationship via a Zoom call) the person who installs that on your phone. Otherwise they might get access to all your renegade videos - a type of dance popularised on Tik Tok. 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 31 August 2020
Pull up your underdaks
Aussie Word of the Week
We hope you're wearing a clean pair, because this week we are discussing the unmentionables. Underdaks, also called underchunders or underdungers, is a colloquial name for your underpants. Daks are trousers, therefore underdaks must logically be underwear. Simple. Aussie slang is full of alternative words for our trousers and underwear. Reginalds or Reg Grundies are rhyming slang for undies, while bloomers are known as bum shorts in Queensland, and scungies in New South Wales and the ACT. Freeballing is a rather imaginative term for when a man forgets to wear underdaks beneath his daks. There are plenty of other, much ruder, words for underwear out there. We'll leave those to your imagination (or a search of the Macquarie Dictionary Online). For other fashion faux pas, pull up your grundies and check out our trackie daks 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 27 August 2020
EE-MOO!!?? How dare they?
In this stressful time of coronavirus, it’s interesting to see that our passions have been aroused by an international dispute over the pronunciation of a three-letter word – emu. In a US report on NPR (National Public Radio) about a woman who had lost her emu, the journalist pronounced the word 'ee-mooh'. This was picked up by social media, and Australians were soon manning the linguistic barricades. How could this happen??? It is OUR word. What could be more Australian than the word emu? Surely it’s from one of Australia’s Indigenous languages?! Um, well, it’s actually from Portuguese. But the bird is definitely ours. That IS true. I’m afraid I’m going out on a limb (unlike the emu), and coming down on the side of the NPR journalist. Very broadly speaking, there are characteristic speech patterns which distinguish one variety of English from another. In the US, you might walk up a 'sand doohn', you might think someone is 'stooh-pid', and you might live in 'nooh york'. Is there anything more fundamentally American than the city of New York? How do you pronounce that?
Posted on 26 August 2020
A new book from Sue Butler, 'Rebel Without a Clause'
Rebel Without A Clause by Sue Butler is a fascinatingly idiosyncratic romp through the world of words from the former Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary coming on 29 September 2020. The English language is changing constantly. We invent new words and phrases, we mash up idioms, we mispronounce, misuse, and misappropriate. Sue Butler has heard it all and this book is a collection of what she has observed since she handed over the reins of Macquarie Dictionary to the new Editor, Alison Moore. For Butler, obsolete words are like pre-loved clothes: it’s tempting to adopt them because they look lovely but when you put them on they appear rather daggy. Her favourite old word is the Scottish curglaff for the shock you feel in bathing as you plunge into the cold water. You might really need this word for swimming but it won’t work for you in common usage. Inventing new words is harder than you might think. Butler reflects on the popular method of blending two existing words. That’s how we came up with babelicious and acronyms such yuppies and SNAGs. We also borrow from other languages, recently taking hygge from Danish. In English the easiest method is to stick two existing words together to make a new compound, as in break room. For all fellow word nerds, dive into Sue Butler’s new book and explore conundrums like: If nonsensical, why not sensical? If bemused, why not mused? If dismayed, why not mayed? Also check out Sue's irreverent look at Aussie language in The Aitch Factor, as well as her work for the Macquarie Dictionary.
Posted on 25 August 2020
Bon appétit! French words that made their way to English
Many English words have been borrowed from French (and many other languages). There are lots of words that descend from the French language that crossed the English Channel with William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and which don’t seem French to us at all, such as abandon, volume, wardrobe, finance and descend. More recent borrowings still retain a distinct French flavour – a certain... je ne sais quoi. Looking at the set of expressions in the Macquarie Dictionary starting with en, you can see they are often concerned with activities or preoccupations we associate with the French, especially cookery. If we stick with cooking and take a quick look at this list, we can find en brochette, en cocotte, en croute, en daube and en papillote. Just describing a dish as en brochette or en croute (especially with a satisfyingly French nasal sound) lends an air of haute cuisine. If you stick some prawns on a skewer, you can announce that you’re serving them en brochette. Wrapping a snag in pastry and popping it in the oven gives you a sausage en croute. And if you prepare your ingredients before cooking, you’re adopting the practice of mise en place. Naturellement!
Posted on 24 August 2020
You're a galah, mate
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are talking about galahs but not the endemic Australian cockatoo with its grey and pink plumage and cute chatter. Galah also means fool. As in Get out of it, you great bloody galah. Galahs are noted for erratically noisy behaviour, which seems pretty bizarre to humans (no doubt it all makes sense to them), hence a galah is a fool. And who could forget the classic mad as a gum tree full of galahs? Galah session, a time set aside for the people of isolated outback areas to converse with one another by radio, is another interesting none avian usage of the word. Picture farmers on a remote station chatting on radios provided for them by the Royal Flying Doctors Service, who helped develop outback communication. Aussies sure like turning the birds in their garden in to slang words. For more, check out our cockatoo blog as well (it's not about the bird either). 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 18 August 2020
New and old words we love to hate
The release of the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition should be a celebration of all of the new and wonderful words that have entered our lexicon in the past few years. However, while we take great delight in most, there are always a number which make us feel like dying a little inside. Whether it’s the awful sound of the word, its construction, its meaning, or even the dismal fact that it exists at all, its inclusion in the Macquarie is based upon an established usage within Australian English. Deepfakes and incels fill me with terror (both contenders for the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year in 2018). Underboobs, twitterature and sneaters also make me worry about our future. Zoats are definitely something I won’t be eating anytime soon. Spoopy sounds plain ridiculous but does guarantee a laugh if you find the right video so I’ll give this one a pass. Talking about words we dislike always acts as a catalyst for readers to voice their objections to their pet hates. In a world in which every single person or thing seems to be described as unique, I feel quite giddy when actually hearing it used simply to mean "of which there is only one". Don’t worry, the use of literally (see here for other words we hate...) and versing still generate the most strident of our emails. And whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has not only seen the creation of numerous new terms but also a sharp increase in usage of existing words and phrases, such as unprecedented, the new normal and PPE (personal protective equipment). But just how many times can something be unprecedented and become the new normal? Some of the new COVID-19 terms are being used at such high frequency that they feel like they have been part of our language forever, such as social distancing, iso and flatten the curve. I’d much rather avoid the awkward (and not socially-distanced) elbow bump, settle in with a quarantini and cook up some fakeaway. What established and emerging words do you hate? We’d love to know.
Posted on 17 August 2020
The sound of the red rattler rolling around
Aussie Word of the Week
Look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track - Johnny Cash No, it's not the Orange Blossom Special, it's a rattler: any type of train noted for its loud rattling. From travelling our cities we know there are still plenty of rattlers roaming Australia's railroads! And if you're from New South Wales, you may remember the red rattlers, any of various trains with dark red carriages which rattled noisily when going at speed. To jump a rattler was to board a moving train and thus obtain a ride without buying a ticket – a practice common among swagmen during the Depression. Scale was a similar word. Swagmen would scale a train, bus, or ferry to avoid paying a fare, as in they scaled a rattler up to Newcastle. Thankfully we all have our tap on cards these days! While on the subject of trains we dug up an old piece of slang used by Sydney rail enthusiasts back in the early 2000s. Millennium bug was used to refer to CityRail's Millennium Train series, which was supposed to begin in 1999 but suffered technical problems. A clever usage of millennium bug, we think. 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 August 2020
Where is the thingo?
Aussie Word of the Week
Today we feature a classic piece of Aussie slang, a word for all situations, so flexible that it can bend into any lexicon, what was it again? Sorry, I've forgotten the name of the thingo... oh, that's it! Thingo is this week's Aussie Word of the Week. Thingo is versatile. A handy place holder for the forgetful and lazy amongst us. Want to change the channel? Ask someone to pass you the thingo and they will invariably know what you mean. Thingo is the Aussie way of saying thingummy or thingamyjiggey or thingamabob or even thingy. It has been in common use since the 1960s. Australians use thingo so much in day-to-day speech you probably don't even notice you're doing it! For other slang words, check out our Australian Word Map, where you can search words by region, or submit your own slang words via our Suggest a Word portal. 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 4 August 2020
Wrap up for our cold words
Today we have a blog that will send a shiver down your spine...brr (sorry). With winter on its way out we thought this was our last chance to share some of our favourite "cold" words. So pop a cold one and enjoy the list of our favourite chilly entries below. Let's start with cold shoulder (which we hope you aren't giving this blog) meaning to ignore someone. There is also a fashion equivalent, a cold shoulder dress, which is a dress with bare shoulders. Frozen mitt is the Aussie slang version of cold shoulder. Have you heard about Bundaberg snow? No it isn't a freak weather event, it is the ashes that fall after burning off a sugarcane field. How could we leave without mentioning the Cold War? Capitalised, Cold War refers specifically to the big stoush between the USA and the Soviet Union, whereas the uncapitalised cold war refers more broadly to an intense economic and political rivalry just short of military conflict. Cold turkey isn't just what you eat every day for a week after Christmas, but the sudden and complete withdrawal of narcotics and other addictive substances without warning. If you are reading this blog and getting cold feet then I recommend a hot foot soak. Are there any other "cold" words we've missed? Let us know in the comments.
Posted on 3 August 2020
Beware the quack
Aussie Word of the Week
At a time when we are all relying to the expertise of our doctors and nurses, we are on the lookout for quacks, and not the kind you hear from a duck. A quack is an ignorant or fraudulent pretender to medical skill. Think Dr Nick Riviera from The Simpsons. Similar words include mountebank, which more specifically refers to someone who sells quack medicines from a platform in public places, appealing to the audience by tricks and story storytelling (like a more sinister soapbox orator), and snake oil merchant, a confidence trickster who sells phoney medical treatments and other wares. Then there is nostrum, a word for a quack medicine. Another medical related slang term is happy juice, a nickname for any pain relieving medication that comes in liquid form. For other slang words, check out our Australian Word Map, where you can search words by region, or submit your own slang words via our Suggest a Word portal. 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 August 2020
Six new words to watch this winter
Welcome to our new words blog, where we share new and topical words, some of which were submitted by you via the suggest a word feature on our website. Been a long winter, right? Here are six new words to keep you warm while the chill lingers. Blood harmony might sound like the title of a vampire novel but it is in fact a type of musical harmony attained by members of the same family. That explains Hanson and AC/DC. Two new pandemic related words this month are coronacrisis, the global or local effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and covidiot: a person who doesn't abide by coronavirus restrictions. I'm sure we have all seen a few covidiots around. We also have two cuddly animal words to warm your heart. Roaching is when a greyhound sleeps on its back with its legs in the air, like a dead cockroach (trust us, it's much cuter than it sounds). Sky puppy is a colloquial name for a flying fox, aww. Finally, a big shout out to all murfers out there! That's mothers who love to surf. 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.