Designing the cover of the Australian National Dictionary second edition

As publication of the Australian National Dictionary second edition approaches, we thought we’d share the story behind the cover. We spoke to designer Sue Dani about her experience creating the covers for the dictionary.

9780195550269What was the brief you were given?
The brief was very open, but key areas of consideration were that it had to reflect the Oxford look and feel, it had to be authoritative, striking, and functional as a reference title.

How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
The content of the dictionary was key as it is a window into our nation’s heritage, history and culture and I felt strongly that this aspect needed to be communicated in the concepts. In light of this, my explorations and experiments featured the use of beautiful works of some of our First Fleet artists, stunning Australian landscape photography and contemporary Australian textile artwork.

This reference title also had the potential to bridge the gap between library purchases and appeal to the collector or gift-giver. It needed to work on multiple levels if we were to gain a wider audience. To achieve this, I needed to consider how all the elements would work in unison to create something tactile and beautiful that people felt the compulsion to pick up, interact with and possess, but, at the same time, fulfilled the need to be practical, spine-out in a library environment. Examples of concepts are shown below:

Typographic concept Textiles design concept2 Mix Aust landscape concept









(Please click to enlarge)

What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
Both these images resonated with me – the classic image of the waratah and the majestic king parrot. The rich colour palettes complemented the Oxford navy livery and helped to unify the two volumes.

What is your favourite thing about the cover?
The king parrot image – there is something about the striking quality of the composition that appeals to me. I began with this image and searched for a partner to complement it.

What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
Discovering and exploring the archives of beautiful Australian First Fleet imagery (the behind-the-scenes process of working through hundreds of images to find those that worked together to unify a two-volume product and case).

What was the most challenging aspect?
Working with the different types of cloth and quarter binding styles to find a combination that fit within our concept, budget and timeframes but also created the right visual message.

What is something about the design of this book we might not know?
The first edition was published in 1988 – the second edition has been 28 years in the making!

A - L AND2e cover spread

Please note: Pink has been used to indicate to the printer where the cover will be embossed. The grey font indicates where the cover will have silver foil. Please refer to the 3D image above for the final cover.

M - Z AND2e cover spread

Please note: Pink has been used to indicate to the printer where the cover will be embossed. The grey font indicates where the cover will have silver foil. Please refer to the 3D image above for the final cover.

Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition: Part Two

9780195550269Editor Bruce Moore, in his Introduction to the dictionary, describes the history and methodology of this significant work of Australian lexicography. We reproduce the first part of the Introduction here.

Read Part One of the Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary second edition.

History of the Editing

In the early period of research for the new edition, the Centre followed the traditional methods of historical lexicography, established by the OED project, and refined for Australian circumstances in the editing of the first edition of the AND. For example, material that might prove useful for new words and senses, and for citations, was identified via the acquisition records of the National Library of Australia.

Soon after the establishment of the ANDC, Ramson set up an electronic database of citations, running parallel to the ‘physical’ file of citations on index cards, the first step in the computerisation of the editing process.

By the mid-1990s, however, the World Wide Web had radically changed the way researchers went about the business of lexicography. For example, in the editing of our Australian general dictionaries, it became possible to test and to establish Australian usage on the Web, especially by using domain delimiters. Gradually, searchable monographs and newspapers became available, with online projects such as the Australian literary and historical texts on the Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service site (SETIS) giving an indication of what was possible for searchable electronic texts from the earlier period. As research for the new edition of the AND proceeded, more and more material became available on the Web, of a kind unimaginable in amount and scope to the editors of the first edition, and to the editors of the second edition for much of their preparatory research.

By 2009 the new words and meanings had been largely chosen, the citations for them had been entered into the electronic database, and draft entries had been written. Revision, restructuring, and reformatting of the material in the first edition were well under way, although this took much longer than envisaged. Ironically, it was this longer than expected editing process that enabled the project to take advantage of an exciting new source of research material. This is the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program (part of the Trove site), which by the end of 2015 had some 1000 Australian newspapers available online, in searchable form, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century (the cut-off point usually determined by copyright considerations). This has transformed the way Australian historical lexicographers can search for evidence of Australian words, and we have been able to take advantage of this new resource in the final years of editing.

Electronic Material

The early Australian newspapers, available through the National Library of Australia, have been a major source of citations. The newspapers are presented in digitised form, along with a searchable text generated by optical character recognition. Digitised and searchable printed books, available from various websites, including Project Gutenberg and Google Books, have also proved valuable. In all these cases, we have had access to a digitised version of the hard copy of published newspapers or books, and this satisfies a basic principle of citation evidence in a historical dictionary: a historical dictionary should provide sufficient bibliographical information about the source of a citation for a user to be able to check the accuracy of the citation.

The wealth of new material on the Web is a great resource for the lexicographer, but the material available cannot always be used in a historical dictionary because much of it is, by its very nature, unstable. Even with careful and detailed information about the URL, including the date of access and the like, the lexicographer cannot be certain that the information will be able to be checked by a dictionary user at a later date. Perhaps this problem will be resolved in the future, but it has not been resolved at the present, and for this reason we have decided not to cite such material from the Web. Similarly, many books are being published in electronic form as well as in hard copy, and of course many books are being published solely in electronic form. The problem of stability again arises with e-books: we cannot be certain that the electronic books available now will be accessible in the future, or that they will retain the precise form in which they are now available. For this reason we have decided to adhere to the principle that we will only cite evidence where we are certain that it can be readily checked in the future.

There are digitised and searchable forms of the hard copy of some newspapers available on the Web, but these are often restricted in availability to the previous twelve months or so. Electronic forms of newspapers are widely available on the Web, but their content changes in real time, and so for the bibliographer they pose problems of a lack of recoverability and a lack of stability. The content of the hard copy of a large range of contemporary Australian newspapers, sometimes extending back in time to the mid-1980s, is available in electronic (but not digitised) form via websites such as Factiva. In most cases, however, these electronic versions of newspapers present problems for the historical lexicographer: all the material that is in the electronic version is not necessarily in the hard copy and vice versa (for example, last-minute cuts might be made to the hard copy to fit on to a page, while the complete version is submitted to the electronic repository); the page numbers given for the electronic version do not always match the hard copy; the electronic version does not carry over features such as italics and some entities from the hard copy; with country newspapers that are published only a few times a week, the date given for the electronic version is sometimes out by a day or two. For such reasons, all citations located by searching such electronic newspapers have been verified against the hard copy. This practice has also enabled us to give the column number of a newspaper citation as well as the page number, and this is in keeping with the bibliographical practice of the first edition.


The first edition of the AND used subject labels (such as Mining) to indicate that a word is restricted to a particular field of activity, but did not use labels to indicate register. It is argued in the Introduction:

There is a danger that using labels to indicate register can be overinterpretative and over-restrictive. This seems particularly true of Australian English, which allows easy movement between formal and informal usage. It should be clear from the citations if a word belongs mainly in colloquial use or to the slang of a particular group, and equally clear if it is for some reason taboo in some contexts. Labels like coarse, colloq., derog., slang, and vulgar, which tend unnecessarily to categorize, have therefore been omitted. Inclusion of words that many will find offensive does not mean that the editors endorse the sentiments they frequently express: our responsibility has been to record the language as it has been used and to supply the evidence of this use in citations which enable users of the dictionary to form their own judgements about both the words and their users.

Increased sensitivity about the presence of offensive terms in dictionaries, especially racist terms, has been addressed by the use of the label Offens. in this edition. Derogatory terms are sometimes self-evident from their definitions, but if we have felt that further guidance about register for such terms would be useful, we have added the label Derog. The comments about the fluidity of the range between formal and informal in Australian English remain valid, and we do not use labels such as Colloq. And Slang, since their imposition would often misrepresent the nature of Australian English.

In the first edition there was some use of regional labels, but such labels were used with caution because of a lack of firm empirical evidence for many items. Research by the ANDC and by other scholars has increased our understanding of regional variation in the Australian lexicon, and many more items are marked with regional labels in this edition. Although regional designation based on States (and Territories) is not always entirely satisfactory, since patterns of regional distribution often cross State boundaries, we have used the State-based designation since it is the most readily understood by the user.

Flora and Fauna

As with the first edition, entries recording the popular names of flora and fauna make up a significant component of the dictionary, and in the Introduction to the first edition it was noted that ‘it has often been difficult to determine whether or not to include a word’ and that ‘in general we have erred on the side of inclusiveness’. The predecessor to the AND was E.E. Morris’s Austral English (1898), a work that received immediate and continuing criticism for the amount of flora and fauna it contained. The primary objection was not to names derived from Aboriginal languages (kangaroo, quandong, etc.) or to vernacular names (laughing jackass, Jacky Winter, etc.), but mainly to the numerous names in the form of descriptive compounds (such as native carrot and red-bellied black snake).

These descriptive compounds, however, are a significant element in the history of the naming of the Australian landscape by the colonisers and their descendants. When the Europeans came across Australian flora and fauna they had a number of ways of giving common (as distinct from scientific) names to them. They could take the Indigenous name, and in some cases they did. One other common procedure was for newly discovered flora and fauna to be named after fancied resemblances to known flora and fauna, especially British and European. The term ash, for example, was applied to trees that produced timber resembling the European ash, even though the trees are in no way related. In order to distinguish the Australian plant or animal from the European plant or animal with which it was compared, the Australian usage was often preceded by a term that indicates a difference, and two commonly used modifiers were wild and native. Another way of distinguishing particular species was to use a description that included a colour term such as red or black.

While the AND is not a dictionary of Australian natural history, it includes compounds for flora and fauna that are common in everyday usage, and it includes sufficient other compounds to illustrate the nature and extent of various kinds of compounding strategies (as with native-, wild-, red-, and so on). Such processes of naming can offer important insights into Australian history, and one of the functions of a dictionary based on historical principles is to provide the evidence for such history.

Compound Entries

This edition follows the structure of the first edition, with one major exception. In the first edition, Compounds, or Special Compounds and their definitions, were listed in one section, followed by a second section with all the illustrative citations for all the compounds. In the citation section, the shift from one compound to the next was signalled by the highlighting of the compound term in bold on its first appearance. Especially in very long entries (as at bush where the compounds extended over six pages) this made the compound entries very difficult and cumbersome to decipher. This structure was also at odds with the bulk of entries, where the citation block was tied to its headword or sense number. This different structure made some sense for compound sections of particular kinds, especially those made up largely of flora and fauna, where the import of the compound block consists as much in its whole (for example, the widespread use of compounding elements such as native and wild, or colours such as red and black) as in the individual compounds (such as native apple, native apricot, native artichoke, native bear, etc.).

Even so, for many entries made up of Special Compounds, where the senses were various and important, this structure was frustrating, and a need for some kind of reorganisation of the compound sections was strongly felt. The result is the partial denesting of each compound section in the present edition: each compound, its definition, and its illustrative quotations are brought together in one ‘mini-section’ within the larger compound block.

Introduction to the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition: Part One

Editor Bruce Moore, in his Introduction to the dictionary, describes the history and methodology of this significant work of Australian lexicography. We reproduce the first part of the Introduction here.

9780195550269The Australian National Dictionary (hereafter AND) is a dictionary based on historical principles, and it is therefore concerned with the way the words that make up the lexicon of Australian English have evolved through time.

In concept and methodology, the historical dictionary differs greatly from the kind of dictionary with which most readers are familiar—the ‘general’ dictionary, in which the treatment of any particular word begins with the most common sense in use at the time of editing, and then moves through to the least common. The historical dictionary, however, begins with the oldest sense and moves through to the most recent sense, since its aim is to chart the historical development of a word. As part of this history, it includes all obsolete words and all obsolete senses. And because it is concerned with the complete history of a word, the historical dictionary places more emphasis on the etymology of a word than does the general dictionary.

A major part of a dictionary based on historical principles is its citation evidence. W.S. Ramson, the editor of the first edition of the AND, stressed the importance of the citations in his Introduction: ‘The essence of an entry in an historical dictionary is its set of citations: these establish the chronology of a word’s use, substantiate the definition or definitions, and illustrate the range of registers within which a word has been used.’ The editor provides the reader with the earliest use of a word or meaning, and then provides a series of quotations to illustrate the use of the word or meaning over time. These citations make up the evidence upon which the definitions are based.

This is what is meant by ‘a dictionary based on historical principles’. The Oxford English Dictionary (hereafter OED) is the primary exemplar of such a dictionary, and the style and structure of the AND are modelled on the OED. Such dictionaries are historical in their structure and in their methodology, but they are also historical in other senses. Richard Trench, in his 1857 lecture that was instrumental in getting the OED project started, stressed that the historical dictionary ‘is an historical monument, the history of a nation contemplated from one point of view’.

Indeed, a historical dictionary can be viewed as a biography of a language and of the people who speak it. This is certainly the conceptual framework that has underpinned and guided our editing of the Australian National Dictionary. Words encode the values of a society, and it is the aim of the AND to document and analyse the history of the words and meanings that have shaped Australia.

Australian National Dictionary Centre

This edition of the AND is the product of research undertaken at the Australian National Dictionary Centre. The first edition of the AND was edited at the Australian National University and was published by Oxford University Press Australia in 1988. In the same year, the Australian National Dictionary Centre (hereafter ANDC) was established at the Australian National University, jointly funded by Oxford University Press Australia and the Australian National University.

W.S. Ramson was editor of the first edition of the AND, and he became the first director of the ANDC. The early publications of the Centre indicated the directions in which its research would develop. An annotated edition of W.H. Downing’s Digger Dialects (first published in 1919), a work that documents the language of Australian soldiers in the First World War, was published in 1990, and was the first of a number of publications with a thematic focus on a particular semantic area. Also published in 1990 was Australian Aboriginal Words in English: their origin and meaning (ed. R.M.W. Dixon, W.S. Ramson, and M. Thomas), a work that documents some 400 Australian words that came from more than 60 Aboriginal languages. Ramson established a regional reading project, based largely on Australian regional newspapers, in order to give a wider regional coverage than had been possible with the first edition. The first of the regional glossaries, Words from the West (ed. M. Brooks and J. Ritchie), was published in 1994, and provided evidence of some significant regional variation within Australian English. These works underlined the core academic work of the Centre: the historical study of the vocabulary of Australian English.

The first edition of the AND received much useful input from the Oxford English Dictionary project. Since both dictionaries are based on historical principles, and since the OED includes some material that is covered more extensively in the AND, the links forged between the two projects have been practical and fruitful. The link with the OED project was enforced by OUP Australia’s publishing of the first edition of the AND and by OUP’s joint role in the funding of the ANDC. The establishment of the ANDC as the major centre for academic research into Australian English meant that it was also the ideal place for the editing of the range of OUP’s Australian dictionaries: a new edition of the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary appeared in 1992 and a new edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary appeared in 1993.

When I took over as director of the Centre in mid-1994, these two major focal points of the Centre’s research—the history of Australian words; the editing of OUP’s general Australian dictionaries—continued. The general dictionaries included further editions of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary and the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, and to these were added the Australian Little Oxford Dictionary, the Australian Oxford Mini Dictionary, the Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary, and the Australian Oxford Dictionary. The dictionary editing extended into a range of dictionaries aimed at primary and secondary school students.

Parallel with these general dictionary publications there appeared a series of linguistic monographs that focused on various aspects of the Australian lexicon. The studies of regional Australian English, begun with Words from the West, continued with Tassie Terms (ed. M. Brooks and J. Ritchie, 1995), Voices of Queensland (ed. J. Robinson, 2001), and Bardi Grubs and Frog Cakes: South Australian words (ed. D. Jauncey, 2004). Thematic studies of particular semantic areas continued with my Gold! Gold! Gold! a dictionary of the nineteenth-century Australian gold rushes (2000), and Amanda Laugesen’s Convict Words (2002) and Diggerspeak: the language of Australians at war (2005). Our understanding of the Aboriginal contribution to Australian English was enhanced by Jay Arthur’s Aboriginal English (1996), a study of a major dialect of Australian English. The social history of Australian English was explored in my Speaking our Language (2008), and the origins of many Australian words and idioms were examined in my What’s their Story (2010).

The Centre’s newsletter, Ozwords, was first published in 1994, and was edited by Frederick Ludowyk from 1996 to 2010; it has been an important focal point for the discussion of Australian words.

Amanda Laugesen became director of the ANDC in 2012, and she has continued the dual focus on research and editing: a new edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary appeared in 2013, and her Furphies and Whizz Bangs: Anzac slang from the Great War appeared in 2014.

The research into Australian English, in addition to generating the kinds of monographs outlined above, enriched the content of the general dictionaries; the general dictionaries sharpened and developed the lexicographical expertise of the Centre. Thus, whereas the first edition of the AND was a discrete research project, this second edition was produced within a research centre devoted to numerous aspects of the study of Australian English.


The first edition of the AND contained about 10,000 headwords, compounds, idioms, and derivatives. These were illustrated by 57,000 citations. The second edition contains about 16,000 headwords, compounds, idioms, and derivatives. These are illustrated by 123,000 citations.

In the Introduction to the first edition, Ramson explains how the readers for the first edition, in searching for Australianisms, were asked to be alert to:

words and phrases they believed were Australian; words and phrases in occupational vocabularies, especially those used ‘on the job’; words and phrases in other specialized vocabularies; names for animals, birds, fish, plants, and geographical features; words and phrases apparently borrowed from Aboriginal languages; colloquial expressions; proverbial expressions and catch-phrases; familiar words and phrases used in unusual ways; family or local expressions; words and phrases not in common use, especially those which appear obsolete; words and phrases which others have found unfamiliar.

In the reading for the second edition, these remained essentially the principles that were adhered to in seeking out ‘Australianisms’. Ramson, in the opening paragraph of his Introduction to the first edition, defined an ‘Australianism’ in this way:

For the purposes of this dictionary an Australianism is one of those words and meanings which have originated in Australia, which have a greater currency here than elsewhere, or which have a special significance in Australia because of their connection with an aspect of the history of the country.

This is a definition that casts a fairly wide net for ‘Australianisms’, and it has proved to be an accurate and useful working model for the new edition.

Most of the words and meanings in the dictionary are exclusive to Australia. Some others are included because while the evidence shows use elsewhere, this is often limited in currency or in regional distribution. Others are included because while they are now current elsewhere, the evidence, as it existed at the time of editing, indicated that they were first recorded in Australia, and therefore may have originated here. Some of the language used by the settler society in imposing itself on an unfamiliar landscape gave new and intensive life to older British (often dialect) terms, or tapped into the lexicons of other colonial societies, and these are included in the dictionary for their historical importance. Similarly, some occupational vocabularies, while at times deriving from British or American uses, acquired greater prominence in the Australian lexicon. This is especially true of the language of the gold rushes of the nineteenth century, which, because of the effect of the gold rushes on all levels of society and on all parts of Australia, became part of the everyday vocabulary of Australians. Many such words are included because of their historical and cultural significance.

The increase in words and meanings for this new edition derives from a number of factors. A reconsideration of the evidence for the period covered by the first edition, along with much further research, has resulted in the addition of many new words, compounds, idioms, and meanings. Australian English will never produce new vocabulary items at the rate it did in the second half of the nineteenth century, but in the past twenty-five years Australian English has continued to produce new terms, and these are part of the expanded lexicon of this edition. A few of the areas of expansion deserve special mention.

A major influence on the Australian lexicon in the recent past has been a new influx of words from Aboriginal languages and Aboriginal culture. The influx parallels the development of Aboriginal political and cultural activism, and it also goes hand in hand with an increasing interest in Aboriginal languages and culture on the part of non-Indigenous Australians. There has also been an increasing interest in using Indigenous names for flora and fauna.

Aboriginal English has also been a significant area for new words and meanings. In the first edition some reference was made to Aboriginal English, and it was described in the Introduction as: ‘that set of terms which is used mostly by Aborigines and which relates to their attitudes and concerns, made up partly of standard English words like business and clever, which have been given new meanings, partly of Australian pidgin words which have outlived the stigma attaching to a contact language, and partly of words originating in Aboriginal languages, especially words like koori, which manifest a pride in Aboriginality.’ Subsequent research has increased our knowledge of Aboriginal English, which is now recognised as a major dialect (or series of dialects) of Australian English.

A significant expansion of the material in this second edition derives from a decision to give greater emphasis to the highly colloquial element of the Australian vocabulary. There has also been an increased emphasis on idioms that embody and carry aspects of the history of Australian attitudes and values.

Read Part Two

Legacies of Politicians

Politicians as a species are known for their lyrical, and sometimes ludicrous, use of language. Australian politicians are no exception and our parliamentarians, senators, and even prime ministers have had a role in shaping Australian English. But pollies don’t deserve all the credit – in turn, they benefit from the relaxed banter that is typical of Australian English.

In what other country would it be considered endearing for a prime minister to proclaim, ‘Any boss who sacks someone for not turning up to work today is a bum!’ (Bob Hawke, 1983), or acceptable to make the party catchcry ‘Keep the bastards honest!’? (Don Chipp, 1980) But pollies must tread the line between playful and patronising carefully, or risk being derided by national (and sometimes international) media.

An example is Tony Abbott threatening to shirt-front Vladimir Putin in 2014. Maybe on a different day, in a different context, using the phrase shirt-front would have been considered larrikinism. However, given the timing – just before a G20 summit – the phrase was widely condemned as inappropriate and undignified.

Many Australian politicians have been so distinctive in their style of speech that their names will forever be associated with a particular quirk or manner. Paul Keating’s blistering insults inspired the 2012 app ‘Paul Keating Insult Generator’, which allows users to generate Keatingesque insults to share with their friends (or enemies) on social media. The app creators hark back to the ‘days of proper political slanging matches in Australia’.

As the twenty-four-hour news cycle demands fresh sound bites at increasingly frequent intervals, pollies need to make sure they’ve got substance and style like never before. How would past leaders have fared in today’s instant-gratification society?

Gough Whitlam was lauded for his theatrical performances and wordplay, and his most famous Whitlamesque proclamation remains as eloquent and stirring today as it was in 1975: ‘Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General!’ It wasn’t enough to keep his government in office, but Whitlam’s words on the steps of Parliament House resonated across the country and, I suspect, rang in the ears of the Governor-General responsible for Whitlam’s dismissal, John Kerr.

Less conducive to tweeting were Bob Hawke’s famously long sentences, described politely by the Australian National Dictionary in the definition of Hawkespeak as a ‘prolix style of public speaking’. Hawkespeak is certainly an apt descriptor for Rob Oakeshott’s 2010 election speech: a sixteen-minute explanation of his decision to back the Labor Party to form a minority government. The widespread frustration expressed in the media and the derision the speech received perhaps indicate that the Australian populace has little time for or interest in long-form oratory.

Or is dwindling engagement an indication that Australian politics has lost the unique style so important to political success in the past? Should dictionaries of the future include ‘Turnbullesque’ or ‘Shortenesque’? The recent election was a perfect opportunity to listen in on the innumerable debates, advertisements, and press conferences, brush up on polliewaffle, and decide for yourself.

Jess Dowling is the Compliance Advisor at Oxford University Press Australia. By day she makes sure that the branch maintains high ethical standards, and by night she works on her plans to restore the Oxford comma to its proper place at the top of the punctuation tree.

9780195550269This article was inspired by entries from the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. This dictionary is the only comprehensive, historically-based record of the words and meanings that make up Australian English. It is a unique lexical map of Australian history and culture.

The dictionary was produced at the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University. The Centre, established in 1988, is a joint venture of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand.

Chief Editor: Dr Bruce Moore is a former Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre (1994–2011). He has edited a number of OUP dictionaries, including the Australian Oxford Dictionary.
Managing Editor: Dr Amanda Laugesen
Editors: Mark Gwynn, Julia Robinson

[1] ‘13 Quotes that made Gough Whitlam Australia’s most loved, hated and controversial Prime Minister’, Business Insider (21 October 2014):

Please click on the images below to see the entries as they appear in the Australian National Dictionary:

Oxford Word of the Month: July – Deso

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noun: a person who abstains from alcohol at a social gathering so as to be fit to drive others home; a designated driver.

In 2012 the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in Victoria ran a competition, Make A Film, Make A Difference, which asked people aged 25 or under to come up with an idea for a short film on the theme ‘Your mate’s life is in your hands’. The winners of the competition were given a $25,000 budget to produce their film. One of the winners produced a music video with the title The Deso. In this short film the protagonist sings a rap song with the refrain ‘I’m the deso, deso, and I’m rockin’ super clean, so show me some love, I’m takin’ one for the team’. He sings of the benefits of being the designated driver: being in control, looking after your mates, and having a good time without getting drunk. The film was subsequently used by the TAC to promote a safe drinking culture for young Victorians, with the primary message of discouraging drink-driving.

Deso (pronounced dezz-oh) is an abbreviation of designated driver: a person who abstains from alcohol at a social gathering so as to be fit to drive others home. The word includes the suffix –o which is frequently added to Australian abbreviations as a marker of a shared informality. Other examples include ambo (ambulance driver), arvo (afternoon), compo (compensation), and rello (a relative).

There is evidence for deso on the Internet from at least 2010, and it appears in Australian newspapers from 2012. Use of the term has increased recently with the implementation of various education programs and government initiatives. These encourage the practice of designating one person from a group of friends to be the driver responsible for taking the others to and from a social event, and to abstain from drinking alcohol on that occasion. Some commercial venues actively participate in these initiatives:

At a few places, if you tell them you’re a ‘deso’, they’ll give you a free Coke, but at other places, they will make you pay for it. (Ballarat Courier, 18 July 2012).

The same article suggests that some people take advantage of the initiative:

You hear of people who are as blind as a bat who go up to the bar and say ‘I’m deso tonight’ and walk away with a free drink.

These quotations reveal that, while deso is a relatively new addition to the Australian lexicon, it has already become widely recognised in some parts of the community.

Deso will be considered for future inclusion in the Australian National Dictionary and our Australian Oxford dictionaries.

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