The Oxford English Dictionary celebrates one hundred years of Roald Dahl.

bfgrdLast week marked the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth and to celebrate, the Oxford English Dictionary has published a range of revised and newly drafted entries containing references to Roald Dahl’s writing in its latest update.

The words included are recognisably ‘Dahlesque’ and while not all are coined by him, they have magical qualities that instantly evoke the vibrant worlds that have captivated the imaginations of so many.

Dahl was a true wordsmith, a creative man who jumbled up the letters and presented us with words that are fun to say. He offered us a new spin on old words, such as splendiferous, [splendid/marvellous] which was first used more than five hundred years ago to mean resplendent, and revived other words that hadn’t been used for decades, such as scrumdiddlyumptious, [extremely scrumptious; excellent, splendid; (esp. of food) delicious] because sometimes, scrumptious just isn’t enough.

Many children (and parents alike) were delighted when he introduced us to Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the diminutive and musical workers from Loompaland. Who could forget the much coveted golden ticket, an all access pass into the magical world of Willy Wonka himself. We learnt that we’re all human beans thanks to The BFG, the big friendly giant so named for his unusual friendliness, and found out about that magical time called the witching hour, described by Dahl as the ‘special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up [is] in a deep deep sleep’ (although it was actually first mentioned in 1762 in a poem by Elizabeth Carter Keene).

That’s the wonderful thing about Dahl, he understood that language shouldn’t be static or limited to our current understanding, rather, that language can be fun and that we should play with it and delight in its possibilities.

Of the inclusions, Dahl’s grandson Luke Kelly (Managing Director of The Roald Dahl Literary Estate) says: “It’s no secret that my grandfather, Roald Dahl, took particular relish in playing with language and making it his own. Of all the many wonderful tributes being paid to him in his centenary year, the inclusion of his words and phrases within the iconic Oxford English Dictionary feels not only one of the most fitting but one that I know would have made him extremely happy and proud.”


The OED is one of the largest and longest-running language research projects in the world. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over 829,000 words, senses, and compounds – past and present – from across the English-speaking world. As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find these in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language – traced through over 3.3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.  For more information about the OED please visit the website.

Words for pie (and why they’re all unappetising)

The humble meat pie is as Aussie as it gets. The iconic fist-sized pastry is light, flaky and golden on the outside, and filled with piping hot minced meat and gravy on the inside – perfect as a frosty winter’s day meal at the footy or a cheap, tasty snack from the servo.

In the 2014 season of The Bachelor Australia, contestant Laurina Fleure precipitated a hashtag frenzy on social media when she bemoaned a date that involved eating a ‘dirty street pie’ from a Sydney pie-cart. Her remark alluded to the pie’s status as food for the working class, and the stereotypical connotations of crudeness and boorishness that come along with it. A pie-eater is a derogatory Australian term used to refer to a small-time or second-rate person, originally of the criminal persuasion:

[The term] arose from the fact that most crims were unwillingly conscripted into the army & at the first opportunity deserted. Having no coupons & identity card & prevented from getting work they managed to live by getting free pies from the army buffet in Hyde Park … so to call a person a pie eater was an assertion that they pretended to have a special status & knowledge when they had neither the qualifications nor the knowledge to justify it. (Ted Hartley in Gary Simes, Dictionary of Australian Underworld Slang, 1993)

It’s no surprise then that slang terms that refer to pies themselves can come across as unrefined. In fact, a number of them are downright nauseating in their association with pests, vermin, and unsavoury animal parts; we have never trusted the dubious contents of a pie. Take maggot bag, for instance. As Kel Richards wrote, ‘to ask the nice lady at the canteen for a “maggot bag and blood, thanks, love” is to ask for a meat pie and tomato sauce’ (Dictionary of Australian Phrase and Fable, 2013). In a similar vein, to ask for a ‘dog’s eye with dead ‘orse’ is to ask for a meat pie with sauce.

Rounding up the animal trifecta is rat coffin, described in a slightly dubious tone by the Sydney Morning Herald as:

A tasteless term for a meat pie that is strangely evocative even though it is completely inaccurate these days. We hope. (Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 2005)

Interestingly, in their original form in medieval Europe, pies were called ‘coffins’, or ‘coffyns’, simply meaning a box or container. Food historian Janet Clarkson, in her book Pie: A Global History, noted that pie shells were made of thick pastry and were used as cooking vessels for the meat filling. The shell was made of hard, coarse rye flour, and was often several inches thick. Back in a time when refrigerators hadn’t been invented, this sturdy crust had the added benefit of preserving the contents within.

The word ‘pie’ is probably the same word as the archaic term ‘pie’, a name for the Eurasian magpie: the various iingredients of a meat pie being compared to objects randomly collected by a (Eurasian) magpie. It certainly reflects both historical and contemporary meat pie-manufacturing processes, in which fillings are typically minced and derived from multiple animal parts. In medieval times, pies and pasties contained beef, mutton, venison, fowl (or a combination thereof) and in some cases even porpoise meat (Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food).

While modern-day Australians are unlikely to grind up sea mammals for food, the ‘mixed bag’ approach to meat still applies. According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, meat pies are only required to contain 25% ‘meat flesh’, defined as ‘the skeletal muscle of the carcass of any buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep … plus any attached animal rind fat, connective tissue, nerve, blood and blood vessels’. The manufacturer is not required to label the type of meat used in the pie, as long as it meets the criteria above. If that’s not enough to make you toy with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, tongue roots, liver, spleen and tripe are also permissible parts to include in a pie (as long as these parts are declared on the label).

With the pie manufacturing process the way it is, it’s no wonder that the Australian slang terms for meat pie are all pretty unpalatable. Just as Aussies have put our own culinary stamp on the dish, we’ve done the same in a linguistic sense too. Maggot bag, dog’s eye and rat coffin, in true Aussie style, are terms that are sardonic, irreverent and doused with a dollop of saucy humour.

Alicia Cheah is a Primary Publisher. Once, in a feeble attempt to increase her vitamin A, iron and selenium intake, she cooked a massive batch of fried chicken livers, sautéed lamb liver and crumbed lamb kidneys. It could only be described as an offal affair.

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 theAustralian 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

[Image source: Shutterstock ID 3090849]

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

rd9780192736451To mark the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth this week we are publishing the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary. Books including Matilda, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits have inspired generations to play with language and make up words.

Some Dahlesque words for your everyday:

A word for the weekend…

Hopscotchy – adjective

If you feel hopscotchy, you feel happy and cheerful, as if you have drunk a whole bottle of frobscottle.

‘Whenever I is feeling a bit scrotty,’ the BFG said, ‘a few gollops of frobscottle is always making me hopscotchy again.’ – The BFG.

A term for those you know who let all their hair grow…

Hirsute – adjective

Hirsute is a very useful word to describe The Twits because it means hairy or untrimmed, so Mr Twit is hirsute and so is Mrs Twit’s unweeded garden.

A compliment…

Splendiferous – adjective

Splendid, marvelous.

‘Your grandad,’ he said, ‘my own dad, was a magnificent and splendiferous poacher. It was he who taught me all about it.’ – Danny the Champion of the World.

Did you know? The word splendiferous was not invented by Roald Dahl. It is an old word that was first used more than five hundred years ago. Another old word with the same meaning is splendacious.

A snack…

Snozzberry – noun snozzberries

A type of berry you can eat.

‘Lovely stuff, lickable wallpaper!’ cried Mr Wonka, rushing past. ‘It has pictures of fruits on it – bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, pineapples, strawberries, and snozzberries…’ – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
From aardvark to zozimus, a real dictionary of everyday and extra-usual words.
RRPA$19.95
9780192736451

Available now from all good bookstores.

Connecting with Law Short Film Competition 2016 Winners

he_connecting_with_law_2016_web_featureboxThe Connecting with Law Short Film Competition is an annual event run by Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand. It is open to all students enrolled in an Australian law degree and has proven itself to be unique way of encouraging Australian law students to connect with their field of study and contribute to legal education in Australia.

This year, the ninth consecutive year of the competition, students were invited to make a two- to five-minute film exploring the 2016 theme, ‘Why study law?’ The winning entry was judged to be the most creative, instructive and original, with the team demonstrating an ability to reflect critically and creatively on the theme.

1st prize winner: Day One
Kit Mun Lee, Liam Hartley, Edward Wong, Quang Ngyuen
(University of Melbourne)

This film humorously attempts to capture the reality of those first few classes in law school where students answer ‘that’ question – why study law? Such a question produces an array of responses, ranging from passion for reading and writing to self-empowerment to the chance to do something interesting.

Though valid reasons, often times these incentives are fallible and even steeped in fantasy – such self-driven motivations for studying law can be unrealistic. Therefore, this film satirises these fantasies and contrasts them to the more meaningful motivation for studying law – helping people and effecting positive change in others.

Please note that we have decided to only award first place this year, as we feel the other entries did not meet the criteria of the submission guidelines and were thus ineligible to place.

It is our hope that the 10th Anniversary of the Short Film Competition will see participants embracing the competition with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

Thank you for supporting the Connecting with Law Short Film Competition. Please stay tuned to our website for details about next year’s competition in early 2017.

Upcoming events for the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition

To celebrate the publication of the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, there will be events in Sydney and Melbourne this September.

AND2e

Starting on Thursday September 8 at 6 pm Abbey’s Bookshop in Sydney will be hosting an event with AND 2e editors Bruce Moore (former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre) and Amanda Laugesen (current director), along with Abbey’s bookseller Lindy West as moderator and Kel Richards (broadcaster and author of The Story of Australian English) as guest speaker.

This is a free event but you will need to RSVP to attend. Follow the link to RSVP and for more information.

On Tuesday September 13 at 6.30 pm Readings Hawthorn in Melbourne will be hosting Bruce Moore and Amanda Laugesen for a free panel discussion moderated by cryptic crossword maestro David Astle.

Please follow the link to RSVP.

 

We hope to see you there!

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Oxford Word of the Month: September – hip-pocket nerve

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noun: an imaginary nerve that reacts whenever demands are made on one’s money (especially in contexts such as government proposals to increase taxes).

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The first evidence of the term hip-pocket nerve occurs in a speech by Prime Minister Ben Chifley in 1947. In May of that year, during a tax debate in the House of Representatives, Chifley responded to a comment on aggregate taxation by the member for Fawkner:

The average citizen is not interested in what the whole of the community pays; his sole interest is in what he pays. Accordingly, I shall bring the honourable member for Fawkner right down to earth. As members of Parliament receive an allowance of £1000 a year, I propose to examine the case of a man in receipt of that income, because it will bring home the facts to a very sensitive nerve in the human constitution—the ‘hip-pocket nerve’. (Reported in The Australian Worker, 21 May 1947)

The hip-pocket nerve gets its name from the pocket in the back of a pair of trousers, just behind the hip, that traditionally contains a wallet. Chifley’s point is that we are all sensitive to demands on our wallet, especially those coming from government. Australian governments of all persuasions are acutely aware of this around the time of the annual Federal Budget:

While this year’s Budget will be hitting the hip-pocket nerve, the Government is taking solace in the knowledge that it has up to two years to win over the electorate. (Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 1986)

Did Ben Chifley coin the term hip-pocket nerve, or was he using a term he already knew? In the absence of earlier evidence we can’t rule out the possibility that it is Chifley’s coinage. What is clear is that its first recorded outing in a tax debate foreshadowed the context of bureaucratic impost in which this Australian term is still chiefly used:

This week’s Geelong city council decision to lift rates an average 8 per cent will leave ratepayers, whacked heavily about the hip pocket nerve in recent years, even more disillusioned. (Geelong Advertiser, 4 June 2005)

Hip-pocket nerve is included in the recently released second edition of the Australian National Dictionary (2016).

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