Merry Christmas one and all!

OUPANZ christmas booktree Higher Education and TradeEveryone at Oxford University Press Australia wishes you a very Merry Christmas!  Have a wonderful day, wherever you are. Here are some of our favourite seasonal quotations to get you in the mood!

“Christmas, in fact, is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.”
The Zodiac Arch by Freya Stark

“Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare

“Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans. No more merciful beheadings. And call off Christmas!”
Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves spoken by Alan Rickman

“Don’t they know it’s Christmas?”
title of the song by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

“And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.”
Christmas by John Betjeman

“‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.”
White Christmas by Irving Berlin

“Merry Christmas to one and all!”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What is your favourite quotation about Christmas? Reply to this blog or tweet it tagging @OxfordAustralia!

9780199668700The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is a vast treasury of wit and wisdom spanning the centuries and providing the ultimate answer to the question, ‘Who said that?’ Find that half-remembered line in a browser’s paradise of over 20,000 quotations, comprehensively indexed for ready reference. This dictionary provides a quote for every occasion from the greatest minds of history and from undistinguished characters known only for one happy line.

Hoot, ninnyhammer, tap-shackled: words you might use this Christmas!

COG_BLOG_CRYSTAL_DEC2014_2ppAlexandra Mellas, Higher Education Sales and Marketing Assistant, takes your holiday conversations to the next level with David Crystal’s Words in Time and Place.

Have you had to stump up a pretty penny on presents? Is eggnog making your cop-shotten uncle act like a saddle-goose this year? Use your words these holidays to add a distinctive flair to your family or work-place banter, with a little help from Words in Time and Place.

You haven’t just been spending money this year, you’ve been spreading your:

  • Gingerbread (1699): The highly decorated shapes made from ginger-flavoured cakes led to the word being applied to things that were attractive and showy. (The bread ending is a popular etymology, due to a misunderstanding of the unfamiliar final syllable of Latin gingiber ‘ginger’.) It was eventually used as slang for ‘money’: if you had the gingerbread, you were well off.
  • Hoot (1820): Utu is a Maori word meaning ‘reward’ or ‘payment’; so in New Zealand English slang it came to be used for ‘money’, to begin with the spelled hutu or hootoo, and then shortened. It crossed the sea to Australia by the end of the nineteenth century. A quotation from 1970 in the New Zealand Listener says ‘I hadn’t heard that word for money in years’, but it is still listed as colloquial in the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary (2005).

Don’t act the fool, or you might be called a:

  • Ninnyhammer (1592): Originally quite a strong word, judging by some early quotations: ‘whoreson Ninihammer’ (1592), ‘Clod-pated, Numbskulled Ninny-hammer’ (1712). The hammer element suggests ‘blockhead’. It is much milder in later usage, as illustrated by the quotation from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Two Towers (1954, Book 4.1) when Sam Gangee calls himself ‘nowt byt a ninnyhammer’.
  • Possum (1965): Australian slang for ‘fool’, but recorded only in a single dictionary source.

Throw some class into your bousy talk and call your friends:

  • Tap-shackled (1604): A different view of the drunkard: fettered to the tap of a beer barrel. In his translation of Bishop Hall’s The Discovery of a New World (c.1609), John Healy tells us of a man who, ‘being truly tap-shackled, mistook the window for the door’.
  • Plotzed (1962): A Yiddish expression, from the verb plotz ‘crack, split’, which leg to several US slang uses, recorded since the 1920s, such as ‘display strong emotion’ (‘she plotzed for joy’) and ‘sit down wearily’ (‘I plotzed into an easy chair’). Either or both of these nuances could have led to the association with drunkenness.

All words and their definitions listed here have been taken from Words in Time and Place, a fascinating read for any word-lover and an in-depth analysis of the history of fifteen different fascinating sets of words from oaths and exclamations, to spacecraft and terms of endearment. For a great visual representation of some of the word sets, go to this post at

Author, David Crystal, is known throughout the world as a writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster on language. He has published extensively on the history and development of English, including The Stories of English (2004), Evolving English (2010), Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language (2010), The Story of English in 100 Words (2011), Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling (2012), and Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain (with Hilary Crystal, 2013).

9780199680474Words in Time and Place: Exploring language through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary
David Crystal

Take to the road with Mr Toad!

Alyce Crosbie, Sales & Marketing Coordinator, reviews The Adventures of Mr Toad by Tom Moorhouse.

adventures-of-mr-toadIt’s great when classic tales are brought to life for modern-day audiences. The Adventures of Mr Toad, as retold by Tom Moorhouse, is a picture book retelling of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows from Toad’s point of view. Now younger readers get to join Mr Toad on his adventures, driving motorcars and escaping prison! Of course, Toad is accompanied by his old friends Mole, Ratty and Badger:

  1. Mole – the sweet one.
  2. Ratty – the jolly one.
  3. Badger – the slightly scary one.
  4. Toad – the brave, talented, clever one.

When Mr Toad’s new obsession with cars lands him in prison for theft, he manages to escape in disguise only to find stoats and weasels have taken over his home Toad Hall! Toad and his friends must come up with a plan to reclaim Toad Hall. Children of all ages will love following this fast-paced adventure and can sing-along with Toad throughout the journey, joining as he clears his throat with a ‘ahem’ (or a ‘sniff’ when he is feeling sorry for himself):

I’m the magnificent, wise Mr Toad,
the finest of drivers around on the road.
My goggles and gloves make me look rather dashing.
But I’m never quite sure why my cars keep on…

Paired with beautiful colour illustrations by David Roberts, this story will captivate young readers and keep them on the edge of their seats. Though Toad is easily distracted (and more than a little boastful), you can’t help but be charmed by him and know he essentially means well. The perfect book for reading aloud as a family, The Adventures of Mr Toad has a great message at its heart about being brave, standing up for yourself and looking out for your friends. It is a tale of friendship, adventure and laughter, and the perfect way to introduce the story and characters to young children before they move on to The Wind in the Willows.

Tom-MoorhouseTom Moorhouse lives in Oxford, where he enjoys the refreshing and perpetual rain. He is somewhere in his mid-thirties. This, he has discovered, means that small white hairs now grow out of his earlobes when he’s not looking. He spends a lot of time climbing rocks. He used to play the trombone, but doesn’t any more. He is, without the slightest fear of contradiction, the world’s worst snowboarder. Ever. Tom also happens to be an ecologist, working at the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology. As a child he devoured – not literally – just about any fantasy book going.

david-robertsDavid Roberts was born in Liverpool. He always loved drawing from an early age and couldn’t wait to escape high school and go to art college. There he developed a keen interest in pottery and fashion and went on to study a degree in fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University. After university he worked as a milliner and began to get work as a fashion illustrator, but always felt his true calling was in children’s book illustration.


Jane Austen was born on this day

Sense and SensibilityJane Austen was born 239 years ago today at Parsonage House of Steventon, Hampshire. The youngest daughter of a clergyman, Austen initially began writing for the entertainment of her family and close friends. Her family’s movements saw her relocate to Bath and Southampton, before settling in Chawton where Austen penned what would become some of her most renowned works.

To celebrate her birthday, here are five interesting particulars about Jane Austen’s life and writings:

  1. Austen grew up in a male-dominated household – not only did she have six brothers – James, George, Edward, Henry, Francis and Charles, but for some time, her parents also ran a boys’ boarding school out of their home.
  2. The Austen family was always supportive of Jane’s writing and her brother Henry helped pursue publication of her work, acting as her intermediary to negotiate with publishers. When a deal to publish Susan (later reworked as Northanger Abbey) didn’t eventuate, the Austen family bought back the copyright and Henry later championed for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion to be published after Jane’s death.
  3. Sense and Sensibility was the first of Austen’s works to be published. It was published on commission in 1811, with the Austen family financing the initial production costs. The manuscript was reworked from one of Jane’s earlier works; a narrative written in a series of letters entitled ‘Elinor and Marianne.
  4. While Austen never married, she accepted a marriage proposal from Harris Biggs-Wither one evening in 1802, only to call off the engagement the following morning. Austen’s beloved sister Cassandra also never married (after her fiancé died of yellow fever in the West Indies), and so the sisters were each other’s companions until Jane’s death from illness in 1816.
  5. During her lifetime, Jane Austen was not widely known as an author, as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma were published anonymously and Austen didn’t acquaint herself in literary circles. It was only posthumously that Jane was publicly credited as the author of these works and celebrated for her writings.

Want to know more about Jane Austen?

9780199538997So You Think You Know Jane Austen? A Literary Quizbook


A Memoir of Jane AustenA Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections

The Australian 2014 Word of the Year: ‘Shirtfront’

ShirtfrontEach year the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) looks for a word that has come to prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape; this year the ANDC Word of the Year is:

 shirtfront – in figurative use, to challenge or confront a person. It is transferred from a term used in Australian Rules football, where it refers to a type of hip-and-shoulder bump of an opponent, and is also found in Rugby, where it refers to grabbing an opponent’s jersey. Prime Minister Tony Abbott used it in a press conference when asked whether he would raise the issue of the downing of flight MH17 with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The term was little known outside of its sporting context, although the figurative use has been around for some years, and Abbott’s threat to shirtfront Putin, and the word itself, was widely discussed and satirised in the Australian and international media. After the G20 summit took place British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both used the term in jest in their speeches to the Australian Parliament. Whether the figurative use of the term becomes more popular remains to be seen.

Shirtfront is not the only word that has stood out in Australian politics and the media: we also saw Tony Abbott’s new government contribute Team Australia to the lexicon (as well as a number of other terms that didn’t make our shortlist, such as budget emergency and lifters and leaners). This year also saw the emergence of the man-bun and the Ned Kelly beard, reflecting social and cultural trends. Unusually, new technology- or social media-related terms were less prevalent, although metadata and data retention appeared more often in public debate.

The words shortlisted for 2014 are:

Team Australia – another term brought to prominence by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In the 1980s, Team Australia was used to refer to various national sports teams; in the 1990s, it was used in business contexts. Abbott first brought the term into political discourse this year when he used it in reference to the Racial Discrimination Act and the need to combat terrorism, but he uses it more broadly to refer to people who support Australia and its values.

man-bun – a hairstyle worn by a man where hair is drawn into a coil at the back of the head. This style became popular in 2014, especially among young urban men and hipsters. Notable celebrities to have sported the man-bun recently include Chris Hemsworth and Harry Styles. Man-bun is sometimes shortened to mun.

Ned Kelly beard – a full beard reminiscent of that worn by the bushranger Ned Kelly. Wearing full beards has become fashionable once again and, like the man-bun, is popular with young men. The term gets its inspiration from the famous image of Ned Kelly taken the day before his execution in 1880.

coward punch – a knock-out punch or blow, especially an unfair punch delivered from behind. This term had considerable prominence earlier in the year when, after a series of tragic incidents, there was a campaign to replace the Australian English term king-hit (which dates to the early twentieth century) with a term that more accurately conveys the cowardly nature of the attack. Whether coward punch will successfully replace king-hit in Australian English will be interesting to see.

The 2014 Word of the Year and shortlist are selected by the editorial staff of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, and are based on extensive research as well as public suggestions. The ANDC undertakes research into Australian English and edits Australian dictionaries for Oxford University Press.

More information about the 2014 Word of the Year can be found at the ANDC blog, OzWorders.

Creating inclusive literacy learning experiences

Rudyard Kipling famously said that, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind”. Words can heal, hurt, excite, sadden – or just help with basic, everyday tasks and communications. So much human interaction is based on words; written, spoken, signed, or even tweeted! It is little wonder then that literacy learning is of such great importance.

Being literate leads to so many experiences, not least to so many aspects of education. Think about how many times today you will read something, write or type something or communicate with others in some way using language – just in one day!

Given how strongly literacy is valued and privileged in our society, it is unsurprising that there is such an emphasis on literacy experiences from the very earliest years onwards. Unfortunately though, many people do not receive the literacy learning opportunities that they need. There are various reasons for this, based on location, time and individual situations. However, regardless of context, people who experience disability are particularly at risk of being excluded from literacy learning opportunities.

9780195524123As I have written in my new book, there are many unnecessary barriers to literacy development for children who experience disability. These barriers include a paucity of literacy learning opportunities (often direct exclusion from literacy experiences, particularly in segregated educational settings), the promotion of narrow concepts of literacy for children who experience disability, a lack of accessible or appropriate literacy materials and experiences, and low expectations.

However, literacy is for everyone. No one, regardless of impairment or (dis)ability, should be excluded from literacy learning opportunities. While the lack of literacy learning opportunities, historical misunderstandings, and low expectations have formed significant barriers to literacy learning for many people who experience disability, people who experience disability have shown time and time again the capacity for literacy learning. But we all need the opportunities to make this learning possible!

There are many ways to increase inclusivity and accessibility of literacy experiences. Principles of universal design for learning are essential to inclusive literacy practice. This involves providing multiple forms for responding, engaging and participating within literacy experiences.

Storybooks are important for all children in their literacy learning. Reading to children regularly is highly beneficial, and is thus strongly recommended. Making storybook reading, amongst other literacy experiences, accessible for all children is essential. As researcher and children’s book author Amanda Niland writes, “Picture books enable children to experience the worlds of others, through engaging with fictional characters and narratives. These vicarious imaginary experiences play a part in forming children’s understandings of social values”.

Building on a range of literature in this area (see: chapter 18), the following are some ideas for making storybook reading more accessible:

  • Combining auditory, visual and kinaesthetic materials to enable children to engage variously through sight, sound and touch;
  • Incorporating signs, gestures, movements and facial expressions to increase participation and understanding;
  • Adding Braille and using sign language to enhance inclusivity;
  • Within group literacy experiences, considering the positioning of children in relation to each other, teachers, and materials to maximise engagement;
  • Building in fun and naturalistic repetition; for example, engaging in stories with repeating patterns;
  • Engaging in literacy materials within small groups, retelling and recreating stories in multiple forms. This enables each child to take on a role that builds on their strengths and enables them to contribute to the experience while learning and further developing their confidence;
  • Enhancing illustrations by adding texture or creating tactile books. This can facilitate engagement and access for many children;
  • Making quick and easy adaptations to books. For example, craft sticks, elastic bands or Velcro dots can be added to the corner of each page to provide separators that make turning pages easier.
  • Where needed for independent engagement with books, taping pages together to form an ‘accordion’ shape. This allows the book to stand alone without the need for page turning;
  • Creating options for adaptation by providing access to e-books and electronic tablets (such as iPads), as well as to other supports for augmentative and alternative communication;
  • Providing supports for sitting or standing or adjustable chairs and tables;
  • Using Velcro strips, nonslip placemats or clamps to stabilise books or other materials;
  • Holding a book, or other materials, at an appropriate height to increase visibility;
  • Placing books and other materials on slanted surfaces or easels to facilitate independent reading;
  • Using or recording audio books;
  • Using large print.

Sometimes it takes a little creativity to be inclusive, but it is always possible. The most critical thing is to remember that literacy learning experiences are for everyone!

Dr Kathy CologanDr Kathy Cologon is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University.

Child-friendly testing for young learners

0002_23508Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, looks at how you can make testing a child-friendly experience for your young learners, and useful for you.

“Testing young learners? Really? Seriously? Why?”

That’s usually my reaction when I hear teachers talking about testing young learners.

“So, how do you decide what to teach them? How do you know how to teach them? Testing young learners gives you important information.”

As a friend said this to me I realised my problem was with the word “testing”. For me, testing is judging and labelling, not teaching. Of course, I have always gathered information about my learners and used it to help me teach better. Testing is one way to gather information, but testing young learners needs to be a friendly, positive experience for them. You need to consider their age, use bright colours and fun images, and give them a sense of achievement for having gone through the experience.

Making testing a positive experience
In her book, Teaching Young Language Learners, Annamaria Pinter writes: “In order to understand what children have learnt, teachers may need to use a variety of assessment methods.” Along with observation, portfolios, and project work, testing can be a valuable tool, providing teachers with information quickly and easily. It is important, however, for teachers to take out any of the stress and tension usually associated with testing and work to make it a positive and motivating part of the learning experience.

Understanding the range of abilities in your class
The test also needs to be useful. After all, you are, in essence, gathering information about your learners to help you teach better. Firstly, information from a test can help a teacher place learners in groups of similar abilities, either as a class, or as groups within a class. Knowing the mix of levels in a class or a group, or the strengths and weaknesses of an individual student can help a teacher provide the right kind of support that motivates each student to learn.

Using the results to inform your teaching
This brings up the point of differentiated teaching. A test can provide teachers with important information about each of their students. Who is strong in their use of the language? Who is weak in listening? When listening, do they understand the gist of what they are listening to? Do they grasp the details? Who may have difficulty with vocabulary, or grammar? Having the answers to these questions can help a teacher target their teaching to the needs of the class.

To find out how to make placement testing a fun and positive experience for your young learners, whilst also giving you accurate and reliable results to help you target your teaching, watch our webinar entitled ‘An introduction to the Oxford Young Learners Placement Test.’

This article was originally posted on the OUP Global ELT Blog on 3 June 2014 by Verissimo Toste.

Oxford Word of the Month – December: Billzac

Oxford Word of the Month

ANZAC Day memorial service, Gold Coast , April 25, 2011

Billzac – noun: a typical Australian soldier.

During the First World War a number of terms for the typical Australian soldier appeared. In the early stages of the war a name from the Boer War, Tommy Cornstalk, was revived and used, along with Tommy Colonial. After the landings at Anzac Cove in 1915, the term Anzac began to be used of the soldiers who were at Gallipoli; as the war went on it was applied more generally to any Australian soldier. Digger, a term we are very familiar with today, is another word that came to be applied to Australian soldiers during the war. A much less familiar term used during the war is Billzac.

Billzac was a blend of Billjim and Anzac; there is also some evidence in the contemporary press of the term Bill Anzac. Billjim was a term used in Australian English before and during the war years for the ‘typical man in the street’. First recorded in 1898, it was often used in The Bulletin periodical. During the war, the term was sometimes applied to soldiers, although the soldier periodical Aussie expressed their dislike of the term:

I’m worried about this name Billjim that some of the Aussie papers have tacked on to us. I don’t like it. Has anyone ever heard a Digger address another as Billjim? If a Digger were to say to another: ‘can you tell me the way to the Battalion lines, Billjim?’ He’d be almost sure to get a loud ha-ha. The word is certainly not a Digger’s word. It doesn’t fit. (October 1918)

Billzac first appeared in the Australian press in 1916 in articles praising the special qualities of the Australian soldier:

Friendship is Billzac’s forte. Of mates he is the most true, loyal and generous. But he is a man’s man—in men’s society he finds true relaxation and enjoyment. … He is a born rebel, with a deep dislike to any rigidity of discipline and order. (Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail, 6 November 1916)

This quote attests to the emergence of a mythology surrounding the Australian soldier during the First World War. But it was also clear, as this quote from another soldier periodical, The Kia Ora Coo-ee, suggests, that the term digger was replacing Billzac:

This term Digger is a very universal one in France. … It has supplanted ‘Billjim’ and ‘Billzac’ as generic terms—and even ‘Cobber’, as a name by which you accost your friends, is quite out of it. (15 September, p. 8)

Billzac was thus one of the terms for an Australian soldier that didn’t really outlast the war years. A book published about the war in 1923 by F.E. Trotter was called Tales of Billzac: Being Extracts from a Digger’s Diary, and there was also a sports correspondent in the Sunday Times who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Billzac’ in the 1930s (perhaps because he was a veteran of the war); otherwise, the term largely dropped out of use.

The story of Billzac illustrates the way in which the war experience generated a range of names for the Australian soldier, most of which have been forgotten as Anzac and digger came to dominate our understanding of the Australian soldier at war.

LAU_FURPHIES_CoverBillzac is one of the terms discussed in Amanda Laugesen’s new book, Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War, now available from Oxford University Press. It will also be an updated entry in the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary.