2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching

The recipients of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were announced at a black-tie awards dinner on Wednesday 29 October in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra.

Representing the nation’s finest awards for excellence in science and science teaching, the five prizes awarded in 2014 were:

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

The prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools recognises an outstanding contribution to science education in Australia.

Helen Silvester (centre) with Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science awards dinner

Although not taking out the top prize this year, we are thrilled to announce that OUPANZ author, Helen Silvester has been awarded a High Commendation for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. This award recognises Helen’s contribution, commitment and dedication to science teaching across her career.


HSilvesterHelen Silvester is Head of Science at Mentone Girls’ Grammar School. She has over 20 years’ science teaching experience and a background in research at the Royal Children’s Hospital and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Currently working for ASTA and VCAA, Helen is also an experienced author of science textbooks including Oxford Big Ideas Science and the new Oxford Science to be launched in 2015.


Do you know what a ‘Googery’ is?

In this article, reproduced from our latest issue of Ozwords,  Bruce Moore explores an Australian English word from an aboriginal language, ‘googery’.

In Lily on the Dustbin: Slang of Australian Women and Families (1982), Nancy Keesing includes a list of words supplied to her by the poet Les Murray. Included in the list is the word googery:

Googery. a small roofed shed, open on one side, in which a fire was lit to boil water, heat branding irons, etc. Very occasionally a googery had a gesture in the direction of a chimney, but mostly there was just a flat or sloping roof of bark or iron. (pp. 166–7)

In a footnote, Keesing comments on the possible origin of the term:

Les and I speculated whether ‘googery’ might have derived, via googy egg, from a family name for a hen-house or laying-shed, but he now thinks that a likelier derivation is that the first two buildings the old settlers liked to put up were a tent to sleep in and a shed or shelter to keep the rain off their fire. They called this shelter the ‘cookhouse’, and Les remembered, from very early childhood, that this was his other name for the googery, too! From ‘cookhouse’ to ‘googery’ seems a simple progression: cookhouse—cookery—googery. (p. 167)

Les Murray repeats his awareness of this term in a number of later publications, and includes the word, also with the spelling gugri, in a poem published in The Daylight Moon (1987):

The road runs through Bunyah, meaning bark for shelters, or firelighters’ candlebark blown on in a gugri house, a word for fire-hut that is still heard though few farms still use a googery. (p. 82)

In an essay in Quadrant in January 1991, Murray includes googeries in a list of ‘things which have decreased or become less common’, again with the definition ‘small shelter sheds on farms for making fire in’. This time Murray adds: ‘from the local Kattang word “gugri”, meaning house or shelter’. (p. 39) The Kattang Aboriginal language was spoken in an area of the New South Wales coast from Port Stephens to Port Macquarie, which includes the district of Bunyah where Les Murray was brought up.

To this point, our knowledge of the word googery was almost entirely restricted to what Keesing and Murray had to say about it. This situation has changed, however, with our access to early Australian newspapers through the National Library of Australia’s digitised newspapers project, available through Trove. We now have more evidence for googery. In 1861, the Empire newspaper (Sydney) reported on some Australian contributions to the upcoming 1862 International Exhibition:

The Arts and Manufactures’ Committee have selected a design (originated by Mr Hogarth) for workmanship in the precious metals. This design consists of a native ‘googery,’ or hut, of which the supporting pole rests at one end against a fern tree; at the other, against a stump. On the stump rests an aboriginal female, having on her right shoulder an infant, while the arm hanging down by her side grasps in the hand two boomerangs; the left arm bent towards the shoulder, with an opossum resting in the hollow. Opposite to her is an aboriginal man, in an attitude half sitting, half kneeling, grasping in his right hand a spear, while the left encircles a fishing basket. (19 June, p. 4)

Here is clear evidence that in the 1860s googery was understood to mean an Aboriginal dwelling, of the kind represented by the synonymous regional terms humpy, gunyah, mia mia, and wurley. In 1927 the Australian writer Julian Stuart published in the Australian Worker (Sydney) an account of a drought on a farm, and the rainmaking ceremony conducted by an Aboriginal ‘king’ called Ghundjarra:

Ghundjarra dropped the shield and grabbed a spear, which he pointed all round the compass, with appropriate ululations, and the ‘bobberie’ closed with acclamations from the ‘googeries’ and gunyahs. (12 October, p. 13)

Again, googery is used to designate an Aboriginal shelter, and the synonym ‘gunyah’ makes the sense clear. In 1946 we find a somewhat different use of the term in the Dungog Chronicle:

 Mr Walter Redman writes: ‘Mr Crouch has not got it all his own way with tomatoes. I have had ripe tomatoes all this winter and still have some. I did not have to build a “googery” over them, either, to keep the frost off them.’ (3 September, p. 2).

This letter was written in response to a report in the Dungog Chronicle about Mr Crouch’s tomatoes, where the structure here designated a googery is described:

The annual tomato Derby is ‘off’ this year. A dark horse entered the race and showed such form that the others went out of work. Mr P. Crouch has been eating his home grown tomatoes for six weeks. He put in 12 plants, put a spaced ceiling of 4ft. 6in. boards, with bag strips dangling down. The plants get the rain and the sun, but no frost. (30 August, p. 2)

The term googery is used here in a transferred sense, applied to a structure that shelters plants, just as the original googery’s function was to shelter people. And this, of course, is precisely the kind of transfer that Les Murray notes in his use, where the function of the shelter is to protect fire from the elements.

There is no doubt that the word googery comes from the Kattang language. A Grammar and Dictionary of Gathang (2010) by A. Lissarrague gives gugirr the meaning ‘house; camp’ with solid evidence from a range of Kattang sources. The 1861 and 1927 quotations lack geographic particularity, and it is possible that in the early period the use of googery as a synonym for ‘humpy’ was fairly widespread. The evidence for the transferred uses, while limited, comes from an area where Kattang was spoken or from areas adjoining the Kattang people (the Dungog area is south-west of Bunyah), suggesting that the transferred senses, at least, were limited regionally.

Googery is therefore an interesting addition to our understanding of how words from Aboriginal languages found their way into Australian English. It is now no doubt largely obsolete. But it is part of the history of Australian English, and it will be included in the new edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

Bruce MooreBruce Moore is the former Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, and is currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. He is the author of Speaking Our Language: the Story of Australian English (2008) and What’s Their Story? A History of Australian Words (2010).

Ozwords logoOur biannual newsletter Ozwords contains articles on various aspects of English, especially Australian English, in partnership with the Australian National Dictionary Centre. If you are interested in reading more on Australian English and hearing news from the Australian National Dictionary Centre, why not subscribe?

Cakes in space!


Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre ready for their international space station visit!

Phillip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (author/illustrator of Oliver and the Seawigs) are a wonderfully matched creative pair who have imagined up a delicious space adventure full of robots, aliens and – best of all – cakes in their new book, Cakes in Space.

The hero, Astra, is asleep onboard a spaceship that will take 200 years to reach her new planet – but she wakes up early to find that their ship is travelling off-course and they are under attack… by cakes! Astra must escape the cakes, aliens, AND a nameless horror all while proving that ‘people should eat cakes, not the other way around…’.

Astra is an intrepid explorer driven by the same abilities that are valued in all children – curiosity, bravery and a healthy dose of imagination. She’s not intimidated by the strange and wonderful things she faces in her travels (especially not the burping, many-eyed, spoon-loving aliens) and she encourages herself to be strong for her family even when she is feeling scared. She won’t put up with the dangerous cakes wreaking havoc on board:

‘That’s it!’ she shouted. ‘I have had it with these blimmin’ cakes on this blimmin’ spaceship!’

The book combines a wonderful story with exciting illustrations; as Astra floats alone through the dark ship, the images take on darker tones of grey and black, but then they explode into strong lines and a bold orange when she explores the ship’s garden. Reeve and McIntyre use the layout of the book, the images, the text and the white space to direct the way children will read the story and makes it an immersive experience for them.

This is a fabulous story with just the right mix of crazy monsters, weird aliens, and exciting escapades for readers of all ages to enjoy. The small hardback format easy to hold open when reading aloud, or for snuggling with under the covers and would make a lovely gift.

Enjoy more Cakes in Space fun on Sarah McIntyre’s website where you can learn to draw Astra and design your own cake in space, read an interview with Philip and Sarah on the OUP Children’s Book Voices blog or watch the book trailer below

9780192734563Cakes in Space


Thrilling new YA fiction

Two unique, thought-provoking posts by two unique YA authors. The first is Night Runner by Carnegie Medal-winning Tim Bowler and the second is Replica by Australian writer Jack Heath.

9780192794147Writing Night Runner by Tim Bowler
Night Runner is a fast-moving story and it came to me at a sprint. It’s about a fifteen-year-old boy called Zinny and the novel begins with him hiding in his room at home because he has truanted from school. But within just a few pages we discover that his father is abusive, his mother has a dark secret, and there’s a dangerous man trying to break into the house. A few pages later Zinny is running for his life. When I first started writing Night Runner, I had no clear idea of how the story was going to work out. All I knew for certain was that Zinny was in terrible trouble. But I was hooked and desperate to find out what would happen to him. What appealed to me about Zinny, what made me care about him, was his isolation. He has no one to depend on. He’s not just isolated at school, he’s isolated at home too, and even in his head: he’s cut off from his dreams and confused about what he really wants. He doesn’t have friends to help him and his mum and dad have huge problems of their own.

9780192737663Should we profit from suffering? by Jack Heath
Good writing usually comes from a bad experience. Philip K. Dick couldn’t have written A Scanner Darkly, his novel about a DEA agent hooked on Substance D, if it weren’t for his own crippling drug addiction. The Makedde Vanderwall series by Tara Moss drew heavily on the abuse Moss had suffered as a young model. Bryce Courtenay wrote movingly about his son’s death in April Fool’s Day.

When a character experiences grief or rage the author takes advantage of his or her own experiences with these emotions, even if the circumstances were radically different. I was once violently ill on an aeroplane and found myself temporarily paralysed and unable to remember who I was. In the prologue of my novel Replica, Chloe Zimetski awakens with all her memories erased, trapped in the basement of someone who looks exactly like her. Chloe’s terror is convincing because of my own.
This raises an ethical problem. On the surface Replica is about an android who assumes the identity of her creator in order to investigate a murder. But thematically it’s about what we leave behind when we die. I was compelled to write it after several people close to me passed away.

And now I’m selling it.

Writing can be therapeutic. Sometimes putting trauma into words can help you understand it and let it go. And yet, if a surgeon removes a life-threatening tumour from your abdomen, is it appropriate to put the tumour up for auction? My gut says no, if you’ll pardon the pun.

But this is not a new argument. News sites use tragedy to sell ad space. The advertisers, in turn, profit from universal human feelings of inadequacy. 12 Years A Slave took the plight of African Americans in the 19th century and sold it as entertainment (Django Unchained even more so.) The salaries of police officers depend on the existence of crime. Necessity is the mother of invention, and misfortune is the father of necessity.

If I don’t sell Replica, I can’t afford to write more books. The readers lose. My grief doesn’t get less potent – just less useful. I suffered for nothing.

Perhaps it’s time we stopped asking the question, “Should we profit from pain?” Maybe we should be asking, “Can we afford not to?”

jack-heathAbout Jack Heath
Jack Heath was born in 1986 and started writing his first novel in high school. It was published when he was 19. He has since written several award-nominated books for teenagers, which are published all over the world. He lives in Canberra with his wife.

tim-bowler-2012About Tim Bowler
Tim Bowler is one of the UK’s most compelling and original writers for teenagers. He was born in Leigh-on-Sea and after studying Swedish at university he worked in forestry, the timber trade, teaching, and translating before becoming a full-time writer. He lives with his wife in a quiet Devon village and his workroom is a small wooden outhouse known to friends as ‘Tim’s Bolthole’. Tim has written nineteen books and won fifteen awards, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for River Boy. His books have sold over a million copies worldwide.

This post was originally published on the OUP Children’s Book Voices blog on 17 October 2014.

Pippi Longstocking – The Naughtiest Girl in the World

Jess Howard, Higher Education Marketing Manager, talks about why the red-haired Pippi Longstocking was so beloved to her as a child, and why she still appeals to children today.

I’m not sure where my childhood copy of Pippi Longstocking came from. A second-hand bookshop or library sale is most likely. I remember being interested by the drawing on the cover, with a proud girl with crazy red hair staring out at me like she could take on the world. I wanted to know what she was all about and was excited by a story where a young girl had the freedom and independence I’d previously only associated with adults. Today it’s well-thumbed, with soft pages curling at the edges and a cracked spine, and I’ve had red hair pretty consistently since I stole some of my sister’s hair dye when I was 12.

So who is Pippi? And why does she appeal to children so much? Pippi was first named by author Astrid Lindgren’s then nine-year-old daughter, Karin, who requested a get-well story from her mother one day when she was home sick from school. And so Pippi Longstocking was born: the strongest girl in the world. She lives on the outskirts of a small Swedish town. Her mother is dead and her father was washed overboard in a storm at sea. She shares her house with a monkey and with a horse, who lives in the porch (because in the kitchen he would get in the way and he doesn’t like the living room). Just like Peter Pan, Pippi has no interest in growing up.

The first three Pippi chapter books were published in 1945–1948, with an additional series of six books published in 1969–1975. Two final stories were printed in 1979 and 2000. It wasn’t until 1954 that the book was translated into English as Pippi Longstocking – by Edna Hurup, and charmingly illustrated by Richard Kennedy. Once the stories appeared in English, they quickly became a worldwide success and Pippi one of the great archetypes of children’s fiction.The books have been translated into 64 languages and adapted into multiple films and television series.

Today Pippi lives on, still capturing children’s imaginations and inspiring them to be strong, independent and seek out adventures just like she did for me. Pippi truly hasn’t grown up.

Special offer* for Pippi fans!
To buy the entire Pippi and Friends series for only Au$52.76 with FREE delivery  (purchased individually retail value of all ten books would be over Au$100; RRP of the pack is $65.95) visit www.oup.com.au/pippifriends and enter the following promo code when prompted at checkout: PippiF

Pippi and friendsPippi and Friends boxed set contains:
Pippi Longstocking
Pippi in the South Seas
Pippi Goes Aboard
Karlson Flies Again
Karlson on the Roof
Lotta Says ‘No!’
Lotta Makes a Mess
Emil’s Clever Pig
Emil and the Sneaky Rat
Emil and the Great Escape



*Online offer only available to Australian customers. New Zealand customers free call 0800 442 502 or email cs.au@oup.com to receive the same discount on the NZ price and free delivery. Offer expires 1st December 2014.


Are you searching for knowledge?

Very Short Introduction - KnowledgeThen Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series has the answer!

The Very Short Introduction (VSI) series reaches a significant milestone this month with the publication of the its aptly named 400th title, Knowledge by Jennifer Nagel. This VSI will address classic questions such as: What is knowledge? How does it differ from mere belief? Do you need to be able to justify a claim in order to count as knowing it? How can we know that the outer world is real and not a dream?

In a small, pocket-sized format, Very Short Introductions combine key facts with authoritative analysis and an exploration of big ideas. They provide engaging and readable introductions across hundreds of topics. Written by expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about.

Follow the history and evolution of this remarkable series with these infographics:



Taming the roly-poly boys

Julie Baillie, Primary Education and Professional Development Manager, reminisces about her first day of teaching and the lesson she learnt about the power of story time.

I remember being a young, fresh-faced teacher (with L-plates still firmly attached) sitting nervously in front of my class of 26 brand new Reception students. It was the very first day of school – for both me and them – and I was about to impart some wisdom (or so I hoped). Had my teacher training given me the knowledge and skills to turn this sea of raw talent into budding authors, artists, farmers and scientists?

The little pig-tailed girls wearing pink ribbons and lace-topped socks (it was the eighties after all) were all sitting up straight, hands in laps as I had instructed, waiting for me to ‘teach’ them. They nodded their heads solemnly as I went through our class rules about putting our hands up to speak, taking turns and sitting still with our bottoms on the mat. Learning was a serious business!

As I looked out over my charges, I could sense that not all was as I had hoped. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected constant, restless movement. What was going on? The culprits were like those toys with weighted bottoms – one minute they were upright, next they had over-balanced, and then quick-as-a-flash, they were upright again. But wait, they were all boys. Surely their bottoms were not more uneven than the girls’?

Exhausted from the effort of trying to stay calm and positive, I opened the door for playtime and the boys literally rolled their way out of the classroom.

After playtime, the students re-entered the classroom and took their places, the boys all red-faced and sweaty-haired. I really thought I was witnessing perpetual motion! Anxiously, I viewed my meticulous, to-the-minute plan for the day. Oh no, it was storytime! How would I be able to read with all this commotion? I bravely took my seat in front of the students and opened to the first page of my book, a brand new copy of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

‘The night Max wore his wolf suit …’ I started to read. Astonishingly, one of the roly-poly boys popped upright, his eyes on the book. I kept reading.

‘I’ll eat you up!’ I bellowed in my best ‘Max’ voice. And another of the roly-poly boys stopped mid-roll and leant forward.

By the time Max came to the place where the wild things are, the rolling had almost stopped. And when the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws, the students were all still.

Like Max, I had tamed the wild things with magic – not magic tricks, but the magic of words! Their ability to engage, excite and still the moving masses as we read our way through the library was nothing short of a miracle. We had our favourite books, authors and characters. We decorated our classroom as a pirate ship when we read Peter Pan, as the Australian bush for Possum Magic, and yes, as a forest when we read Where the Wild Things Are.

I survived my first day (and many hundreds after that), confident that every time I sat in front of a new class of students at the beginning of the year, the taming of the roly-poly boys would only be a matter of time – story time!

Julie-Baillie-Oxford-University-PressJulie is the Education and Professional Development Manager for the Primary Division of Oxford University Press. Julie led and conducted both stages of the Oxford Wordlist research and continues to work in classrooms, trialling literacy and numeracy resources with students and educators. Prior to joining Oxford University Press, Julie was an early years educator with the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services. With over 20 years’ experience in education, Julie has worked at school, district and state levels. She has written curriculum support documents and lead curriculum projects with schools and leaders implementing strategies to support literacy and numeracy improvement.

The Boxtrolls: a review

9780192739452The Boxtrolls is a novelisation of the 2014 movie of the same name released in cinemas this September, published by Oxford. Inspired by the illustrated novel Here Be Monsters (also published by Oxford) by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a chance to learn more about the clever little box-wearing trolls who live under the streets of Cheesebridge. The film features the stunning animation we expect from Laika Studios, who also produced Coraline and Paranoman, and has an impressive cast including Ben Kingsley, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Toni Collette supporting the quirky fairy tale story. The novelisation brings together the whimsical elements of movie and the wonderful feeling of involvement that only reading a book can offer.

A wacky adventure, The Boxtrolls is not for the weak at heart. Warning: do not read if eating bugs or wiping your nose on your sleeve makes you squeamish! The people of Cheesebridge have a strict night-time curfew to protect them from the Boxtrolls – the evil, bloodthirsty monsters who butchered the Trubshaw baby ten years ago. The streets are kept safe by Snatcher and his team of Red Hats who capture and exterminate any Boxtrolls found on the streets at night. Adventure-craving Winnie Portley-Rind is terrified of the creatures who lurk in the dark (no one will be making her toes into a necklace, thank you very much!) especially after she sees the Boxtrolls pull a young boy into their underground lair…until she comes face-to-face with the same boy the very next day! Suddenly Winnie realises her quiet little town is full of adventure, intrigue and danger. It’s up to Winnie and her new friend Eggs, an orphaned boy raised by Boxtrolls, to stop Snatcher from hurting the Boxtrolls and prove they were innocent after all.

The Boxtrolls teaches important lessons about what it means to be family through Eggs and his relationship with the Boxtrolls and Winnie’s interaction with her cheese-obsessed, distinterested father; while reminding us:

there is nothing wrong with a happy ending. Because no matter how often you used one, it never got old or stale or outdated.’

Easily managed by children aged 9 and up, The Boxtrolls offers a great adventure to younger children and the adults who help them. It’s a grand story, regardless of your age, that offers a long cast of weird and wonderful characters, wacky creatures and strange places to explore.

9780192739445For more Boxtroll fun, pick up the Make Your Own Boxtrolls Activity Book to pop out and build your favourite characters from the movie. Or, you can make your own Fish right now by downloading and cutting out this pattern.


And if you liked the movie and/or the novel, why not go back and read the original story, Here Be Monsters? Or come back next month to read my Here be Monsters review where I will focus on how the original story changed to become a movie.




Waspish aphorisms from Oscar Wilde, born this day in 1854

Oscar Wilde was born this day in 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. A popular playwright and novelist, Wilde is remembered best for his witty aphorisms. Here are some of our favourites:

9780199535972From The Importance of Being Earnest:

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”

From Lady Windermere’s Fan:

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

“We are all in the gutters, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”

The Picture of Dorian GrayFrom The Picture of Dorian Gray:

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all

“Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.”

9780199535064Comments attributed to Oscar Wilde from conversations and letters with contemporaries:

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

“True friends stab you in the front.”

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

 Do you have a favourite Wildean saying? Why not share it here by adding a comment to this post?

Oxford Book of the Month: It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches

OUPANZ, Oxford, Orin HargravesThis month, Nicola Weideling, our Marketing Operations Manager, reviews It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés by Orin Hargraves.

Tired, trite, overused — clichés have their detractors. But when used well and in the correct context, they can succinctly express a writer’s view, an emotion or an idea. Orin Hargraves’ It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés serves as a concise and lively guide to the most overused phrases in the English language as well as to phrases that are used exactly as often as they should be.

One man’s cliché is another man’s mot juste; as Hargraves states in his introduction, ‘…a phrase might be considered a cliché in one context, while seeming to be a model of clarity and effectiveness in another’. How does one define a cliché when most judgments are subjective? When asked to supply an example of a cliché, people frequently offer up an idiom or a proverb instead. Of course, idioms can be clichés but not all clichés are necessarily idioms. So when does an expression, an idiom or a proverb become a cliché? Hargraves maintains that a phrase becomes a cliché when it is overused, misapplied, or used incorrectly. What constitutes inappropriate use and how does one judge its effectiveness? Hargraves explores these questions systematically and convincingly in this book, breaking clichés down into six groups and organizing chapters accordingly:

  1. Adjectival and quantifying
  2. Adverbial
  3. Predicate
  4. Framing devices
  5. Modifier fatigue
  6. Clichés in tandem

Examples, drawn from data about actual usage, illuminate Hargraves’ commentary on usage problems and support helpful suggestions for eliminating clichés where they serve no useful purpose.

Hargraves makes it clear that he is not against the use of clichés in writing and maintains that originally most clichés were witty, funny or at the very least apt; he argues that it is overuse that gives clichés a bad name. Clichés, used correctly, can add a level of informality to the written word or discourse.

Clichés appear to be used more frequently in particular genres, which Hargraves flags within the relevant synopsis, sometimes very amusingly! Journalists, bloggers and authors of online fiction are named and shamed as they often produce text that is cliché ridden. What these three groups of writers have in common is that they tend to work to tight deadlines and/or do not have access to an editorial team.

So what type of clichés escape Hargraves’ withering putdowns?

  • Idiomatic expressions with that evoke images of objects not usually encountered in everyday life, e.g. ‘tip of the iceberg’.
  • Examples that have an economy of expression, e.g. ‘shed light’.
  • Clichés with alliteration or that offer euphonious prosodic pattern, e.g. ‘part and parcel’.

It’s Been Said Before is an enjoyable exploration of popular phrases in the English language, and their (mis)application in a wide range of genres. It is a great book to dip in and out of and will appeal to readers with an interest in language and lexicography. Hargraves’ love of the language, his use of examples, and his engaging tone make this an engaging read.

As a blogger myself, I have taken close note of Hargraves’ emphasis throughout his book that writers need to be mindful and that words work best when they are specifically chosen; and will endeavor to apply what I have learnt about the use and abuse of clichés in my writing!

Orin Hargraves is a lexicographer and author. He grew up in the mountains of southwestern Colorado and graduated from the University of Chicago. A past president of the Dictionary Society of North America, Hargraves has contributed to dozens of dictionaries and other language reference books. He currently lives in Niwot, Colorado, and researches the computational use of language at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés is available from the Oxford University Press website or check your preferred bookshop for availability.
RRP: AU$29.95/NZ$40.99
ISBN: 9780199315734
Available (published August 2014)