Spanner crabs, platform 27, and a one-duck duck farm

We had some interesting and entertaining correspondence from readers in response to our articles on Australian idioms in the last issue. In her article, Julia Miller was puzzled about the logic of the idiom mad as a box of spanners, asking ‘how can an inanimate spanner be angry or crazy?’ One reader, C. Roe (Qld), has an ingenious theory: perhaps spanners is an abbreviation of spanner crabs, the edible crustacean Ranina ranina. We haven’t seen a box of spanner crabs, but it’s possible they would be more than a little annoyed about being thus detained. T. Bowden (NSW) is also concerned about crustaceans: ‘Off like a bucket of prawns makes no real sense. I always knew it as off like a bucket of prawns in the sun.’

Some of the expressions sent to us were variants on established Australian English idioms. C. Papps tweeted: ‘My dad used to say he was so unlucky he couldn’t win a kick in a street fight.’ This is one of a number of similar Australian expressions on the theme of bad luck or incompetence, such as couldn’t win a chook raffle, couldn’t train a choko vine over a country dunny, and, used chiefly in AFL contexts, couldn’t get a kick in a stampede. T. Brook left a message on Facebook along the same lines: ‘It was an excellent article in the most recent
Ozwords. My favourite [idiom] was missing, but it came and went so quickly in the 1990s it was easy to miss: He’s so stupid he couldn’t run a one-duck duck farm. I can’t explain the appeal.’

Blind Freddy is familiar to many of us as an allusion to something extremely obvious, as in ‘Blind Freddy could see that the deal was shonky’ and ‘Blind Freddy himself could have picked the winner’. One reader, J. Smith (NSW) had a twist on this: Blind Freddy without his guide dog could see that. The inclusion of the guide dog, perhaps a logical extension of the idiom, was new to us. In Amanda Laugesen’s lead article on idioms, she mentioned the special place the bandicoot has in Australia as an emblem of deprivation or desolation. J. Smith added to our stock of bandicoot expressions: the country was so poor that even the bandicoots had to take cut lunches.

One reader sent us some early anecdotal evidence of the Australian term more arse than class (‘to be very cheeky; to be very lucky’). Our own evidence in the new Australian National Dictionary dates from the title of the 1974 album ‘More Arse Than Class’ by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. However D. Aitkin (ACT) remembers the expression being ‘common in (male) squash-playing circles in Canberra in the early 1960s’, in reference to ‘a brilliant shot that was not intended at all’.

There are a number of idioms based on the formula an X short of a Y that mean ‘very foolish’ or ‘mad’. Some of the better-known are a stubby short of a six-pack, a sandwich short of a picnic, and a sausage short of a barbie. T. Hackett (SA) sent us two dogs short of a dingo, and two bob short of a quid, the latter known to him from pub talk in the 1950s. Of course two bob (two shillings), the predecimal equivalent of twenty cents, has form in Australian idioms. Not the full two bob means ‘not in full possession of one’s faculties’ or ‘not the genuine article’. Two-bob is also used to refer to something cheap, inferior, or of little consequence, as in ‘it’s a two-bob hamburger joint masquerading as fine dining’.

Burke (NSW) sent us an expression with a very local application. Some years ago at Central Station, Sydney, a query to a railway worker as to someone’s whereabouts might elicit the response ‘he’s gone to platform 27’. There was no platform 27. Our reader tells us that the last platform was number 26, and that the answer was code for ‘he’s gone to the pub’ (there was a hotel nearby). A current map of Central Station now shows only 25 railway platforms. Has the pub been extended?

Another response to a question was sent in by A. Horsfield (Qld). ‘In the 1940s whenever we asked what’s for tea (now called dinner) Dad would say bread and duck under the table. Took me ages to work that one out.’ Presumably Dad was exploiting two meanings of duck for comic effect. There is some evidence for this saying, the earliest in a letter published in March 1917 in the Don Dorrigo Gazette & Guy Fawkes Advocate. Nancy Keesing also notes it in her book on Australian domestic slang, Lily on the Dustbin, published in 1982. She writes: ‘“What’s for lunch/dinner/tea?” “Stewed roodleums”, “Bread and duck under the table—or duck under the table and bread and pullet”.’ Other Ozworders will have their own family expressions for this. W & S (for wait and see) was my own mother’s invariable reply.

Finally, we enjoyed this story, also from A. Horsfield, about the origin of his family’s catchphrase good thinking Mary, used when ‘someone said something simply obvious or far out. Many years ago a teaching friend was working hard to put on a Nativity play for a school concert … . The actors with limited recall tended to improvise a lot. On the night of the solemn production Mary and Joseph looked for a place for the birth of baby Jesus and found there was no room at the inn. Joseph: “What shall we do?” Mary: “We could use the stable.” To which Joseph replied very thoughtfully: “Good thinking Mary.” We have used this ad nauseam as a point of mild ridicule.’

Julia-RobinsonJulia Robinson is a researcher and editor at the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC). She has contributed to a number of Australian Oxford dictionaries and ANDC publications, and is one of the editorial team who worked on the second edition of The Australian National Dictionary.

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?

Find previous volumes of OzWords here.

Moving crisis management from the ‘war room’ to the board room

Organisations that suffer a major crisis have a more than one in four chance of going out of business. Yet despite this level of risk, many companies continue to leave crisis management in the hands of operational middle managers or technicians with little expertise beyond how to recover when things go wrong.

Corporate crisis management traditionally has a strong emphasis on tactical elements such as crisis manuals, cross-functional teams, table-top simulations, communications procedures and a well-equipped ‘war room’. However leading companies are now taking a more proactive role in crisis planning and issue management, shifting from reactive crisis response to proactive crisis prevention, and moving the focus from the war room to the board room.

But progress is slow. A global survey of board members, published in early 2016, found that fewer than half of the non-executive directors questioned reported they had engaged with management to understand what was being done to support crisis preparedness. And only half the boards had undertaken specific discussion with management about crisis prevention. Moreover, fewer than half of the respondents believed their organisations had the capabilities or processes needed to meet a crisis with the best possible outcome.

The reality is that many organisations still fail to prepare properly and continue to treat crisis management as an operationalised part of the emergency or security function. That may provide an adequate response to an incident when it happens, but contributes nothing to crisis prevention, long-term value or reputation management.

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The other key factor driving increasing senior executive involvement has been the acknowledgment that most crises which threaten a company are not sudden, unexpected events, but are preceded by clear warning signals, which are frequently ignored. In fact, the Institute for Crisis Management in Denver, Colorado, which has been tracking business crises in the media for well over 20 years, concludes that about two thirds are not unexpected at all, but are what they categorise as ‘smouldering crises’ – events which should have and could have prompted prior intervention (and more than half of all corporate crises are in fact caused by management).

Together these two factors – that most crises are not truly unexpected and that many are avoidable – have fueled the move from the operational emergency context of the war room to strategic planning in the board room.

This evolution towards strategic recognition and prevention rather than tactical response has in turn expanded the crisis management role of top executives and directors. However it has also exposed a practical challenge. Most managers want to do what’s right for their organisation. Yet some struggle with deciding exactly what needs to be done to protect against the reputational and organisational damage threatened by a crisis or major public issue.

One response to this challenge is a new concept called Crisis Proofing, which focuses on the role of executive managers and the practical steps they can take to prevent crises and protect reputation. The barriers to effective crisis prevention and preparedness are well documented, but can be best summed up in two common responses: ‘It won’t happen to us’ or ‘We are too big/too well run to be affected by a crisis’.

Many directors and senior executives would prefer not to think about crises. So participation in crisis management does not always sell well at the top. But every top manager should be concerned with preventing crises and protecting the company’s reputation. An effective way forward offered by Crisis Proofing is to develop a genuine crisis prevention approach instead of just focusing on crisis response.

If crises are to be prevented before they occur, issues and problems need to be identified early, and acted upon at the highest level. While this may require a fresh mindset, the quality of executive and board involvement can make a real difference to crisis prevention and management, and there are some basic requirements which help facilitate this approach:

  • Integrating issue management and crisis prevention into strategic planning and enterprise risk management
  • Encouraging blame-free upward communication and willingly accepting bad news and dissenting opinion
  • Implementing and regularly reviewing best practice processes for identifying and managing issues before they become crises
  • Establishing robust mechanisms to recognise and respond to crises at all levels, both operational and managerial
  • Benchmarking crisis management systems against peer companies and peer industries
  • Participating in regular crisis management training
  • Promoting systematic learning from your own issues and crises, and the issues and crises of others
  • Providing leadership, expertise, experience and support in the event of a real crisis.

The Crisis Proofing approach demonstrates that responsibility for protecting the organisation lies absolutely in the C-suite. It gives practical advice on how senior executives can provide participation and leadership from the top. And faced with the fact that one in four organisations that suffer a major crisis go out of business, Crisis Proofing provides a realistic blueprint for how to save your company from disaster.

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Crisis Proofing: How to Save Your Company from Disaster is a highly readable conversation about the creation of a management mind-set committed to reduce the chances of a crisis from happening in the first place and how to minimise the damage from any crisis which does occur. Buy the paperback or eBook now.

Copyright: Sam D'Agostino - SDP Photo
PH: +61 412 350 700 - Australia 2003Author Dr Tony Jaques is an internationally recognised authority on issue and crisis management and the development of best practice methods. Since working as Asia-Pacific Issue Manager for a US multinational, he has established an international reputation in the field, and is a former Director of the Issue Management Council in Leesburg, Virginia. He writes the specialist online issue and crisis management publication, Managing Outcomes (www.issueoutcomes.com.au) and is also the author of Issue and Crisis Management: Exploring Issues, Crises, Risk and Reputation (Oxford University Press 2014).

Featured image credits:  [1] Shutterstock ID 269821922; [2] OUP 9780190303365.

Rendunculous Dahl-inspired words from the Oxford Roald Dahl Competition

celebrating-roald-dahlWe would like to thank everyone who participated in the Oxford Roald Dahl Competition. The response was overwhelming – we received over 3000 entries – and all entries were very entertaining.
We took great pleasure in reading through the hopscotchy, phizz-whizzing and rendunculous Dahl-inspired words – there are no limits to a child’s imagination!
One school got in the Roald Dahl spirit and celebrated the end of term with a genuine ‘Roald Dahl Norwegian Breakfast’ and took delight in eating boiled potatoes, salmon, hard-boiled eggs and old-fashioned lollies.

Oxford Roald Dahl Competition winners

Congratulations to the following schools for their winning entries. Each of the winning schools have received a selection of fantastic fiction and an Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary:

St Gabriel’s School, Traralgon, Victoria
Sparktastic
You look sparkling and smell good.

Woodend Primary School, Woodend, Victoria
Gnob twizle
A very yuck lolly.

Williamstown North Primary School, Williamstown, Victoria
Fuzzle bottom
When someone is being bored and not wanting to do anything

Toukley Public School, Groken, New South Wales
Thinkleminkle
When you dance while you’re thinking about what is for dinner.

Mitcham Primary School, Mitcham, Victoria
Flabbersquirt
A menace or someone who is naughty. For example, “The flabbersquirt pranked his mum.”

St Maroun’s College, Dulwich Hill, New South Wales
Sumboloolumboloo [prounounced sum-boloo-lumb-oloo]
To eat food with your toe while picking your nose. For example, “One time while watching Barbie I sumboloolumboloo.”

Taroona High School, Taroona, Tasmania
Quinstocktottle
To transform an extremely boring situation into an extremely fun one. For example, “He completely quinstocktottled that assembly.”

rd9780192736451Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
Illustrated by Quentin Blake, contributions by Susan Rennie & Roald Dahl

9780192736451
Harback
RRP $19.95
This is not an ordinary dictionary.

This is an extra-unusual dictionary full of everyday words and extraordinary inventions to inspire a lifelong love of reading, writing and language.

The 23rd Educational Publishing Awards

The 23rd Educational Publishing Awards Australia (EPAAs) were held on the 6th of October. Organised by the Australian Publishers Association, the EPAAs celebrate excellence in educational publishing and exemplify the work publishers devote to producing world-class educational resources. More than ever before, they also showcase innovative development and delivery of digital content.

Oxford University Press Australia was honoured to have 13 titles shortlisted across the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary categories. We are thrilled by this year’s results and would like to congratulate all the shortlisted, winning and commended entries.

View the full list of winners here.

Primary Student Resource – Arts/Science/Humanities

ozboxWinner: OZBOX: Learning Through Literacy is a comprehensive and engaging program for Years 3–6 that provides full coverage of the Australian Curriculum for Science, and Humanities and Social Sciences, specifically History and Geography.

OZBOX contains highly visual, informative and detailed topic cards, giving students the opportunity to read, comprehend and engage with content aligned explicitly to the
Australian Curriculum. There are four different topic cards for each Australian Curriculum content description. The cards are written at different reading levels – below, on and above – to allow for differentiated instruction.

Secondary Student Resource – Junior – Mathematics/Science

oxford-science-ac_stacked-covers_epaa2016_220x170Winner: Oxford Science has been developed to support teachers with the implementation of the Australian Curriculum (and now ready for 2017, the Victorian Curriculum and Western Australian Curriculum). The series provides a complete science teaching and learning program with a focus on clear and precise concept development across a range of print, digital and blended resources. Each double-page spread of the series has been constructed to cover one concept and one lesson with a summary and review questions included on each. The new ‘dashboard view’ on the Teacher obook assess is an online lesson control centre that delivers an engaging digital learning experience. Teachers are able to instantly preview, access and assign resources including videos, interactives, worksheets and tests.
Commended: Oxford MyMaths AusVELS Edition

Secondary Student Resource – Senior – English/Humanities/Arts/PE

vce-english-series_stacked-covers2_epaa2016_220x170Winner: VCE English
Reading and Creating / Reading and Comparing
Written by a team of four exceptional English educators, Kellie Heintz, Michael Horne, Timothy Nolan and Rachel Williams, and written specifically for the new 2016 VCE English Study Design, Reading and Creating | Reading and Comparing comprehensively covers Area of Study 1 of the new course in a write-in textbook format, using student-friendly language. Using a broad selection of text extracts, the book covers topics including: textual features, understanding texts, analytical writing, creative writing, reading for comparison, making connections and contrasts, and comparative writing. Additionally a helpful toolkit provides templates, annotated sample responses, practice SAC and examination tasks, and a glossary. The text is supplemented digitally with obook assess, with further support for EAL students and clever interactive modules for on-screen text analysis and comparison.

Analysing and Presenting Argument
This new edition of the phenomenally successful Using Language to Persuade by market-leading author Ryan Johnstone. Ideally used at Year 11 and carried into Year 12, Analysing and Presenting Argument is a hybrid write-in workbook / textbook that gradually introduces students to the skills required to develop arguments, persuasive language (written, spoken and visual), reading persuasive texts (including print, digital, spoken and multimodal media), argument analysis (presenting and critiquing) and proficiency in oral presentations. This text assists teachers and students further by providing up-to-date sources for analysis, templates, step-by-step guides, annotated sample responses, practice SAC and examination tasks, and a metalanguage glossary. Analysing and Presenting Argument is supplemented digitally with obook assess, with further support for EAL students and clever interactive modules for on-screen text analysis and comparison.

Secondary Teaching Resource

Joint Winner: Oxford Science Teacher obook assess
Joint Winner: Oxford MyMaths AusVELS Teacher obook assess
Oxford MyMaths Years 7-10 AusVELS edition Teacher obook assess offers a groundbreaking multi-year-level approach to mathematics education by providing full access to all content and resources across Years 7-10, allowing teachers to customise oxford-mymaths-ausvels_stacked-covers_epaa2016_220x170the learning of every child in the classroom. The accompanying assess tool enables teachers to assign work and assessment, schedule tests, monitor student and class progress, and create reports. The Teacher Dashboard is an online lesson control centre and allows teachers to select content and resources appropriate for each student in their class, tailoring the very best learning experience. Interactive tutorials scaffold understanding of key concepts and build student’s confidence.

Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Student Resource

Winner: Writing Right with Text Types
Matthew  Zbaracki

This book helps current and future teachers inspire young writers in exciting and engaging ways. Chapters 1 to 4 explore the critical components of language and writing, including grammar, setting up your classroom for writing, modelling writing to your students, and assessment. Chapters 5 to 13 discuss the common genres taught in primary school and the text types found within these genres. In these chapters, theory is brought to life through numerous teaching ideas and case studies. The final chapter explores recent developments in classrooms and children’s literature; it encourages reflection on how we teach writing to children and how we might do so in the future.

Commended:
oxford-mymaths-ausvels_stacked-covers_epaa2016_220x170Secondary Student Resource – Junior – Mathematics/Science
Oxford MyMaths AusVELS Edition

 

Highly Commended:

oxford-psych-12_cover_epaa2016_220x170Secondary Student Resource – Senior – Mathematics/Science
Oxford Psychology Units 1+2 3rd edition

Secondary Teaching Resource
Oxford Psychology Units 1+2 3rd edition Teacher obook assess

 

9780195527926Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Teaching and Learning Resource
An Introduction to Speech, Language and Literacy
Sharynne McLeod and Jane McCormack

 

Oxford Word of the Month: October – baggy green

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noun: (also baggy green cap) 1. the cap worn by an Australian Test cricketer. 2. this cap as a symbol of selection in an Australian Test cricket team. 3. an Australian Test cricketer.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The baggy green cap is an emblem of this nation. (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 2003)

The cap worn by Australian Test cricketers, the baggy green, is now a national sporting icon. Originally it was not called the baggy green and nor was it baggy (the baggy cap replaced a more fitted cap in 1921). The veneration of the baggy green is relatively recent, as confirmed by the recollections of former Test players in an article by sports journalist Russell Jackson:

Former Australian fast bowler Frank Misson told Fahey and Coward that in the early 1960s it was still known simply as ‘the cap’ and that its ‘flouncy’ aesthetic qualities were deemed a little outdated by his team-mates of that era. Ian Chappell maintains that it was rarely spoken of by he or his 1970s team-mates. (Guardian Australia, 23 December 2015)

Evidence for the term appears late in the written record. Apart from the odd mention of the baggy green cap in the 1950s, it is not until the 1980s that the cap becomes a commonplace in reports on the Australian Test cricket team:

The Aussies went out hell bent on enjoying their cricket. Enthusiasm was high, pride at a premium and baggy greens firmly fixed on heads held high. (Brisbane Courier-Mail, 11 April 1984)

The association of the cap with the pinnacle of cricketing success was well established by the late 1980s: ‘There are still too many willing to die to wear the baggy green cap.’ (Hobart Mercury, 25 March 1989)

During the 1990s the awarding of the cap became a ritual. In solemn pre-match ceremonies new players received their baggy green from the hands of the captain or a former Test great, and for players it became a tangible link to their predecessors in a long tradition of Australian Test cricket. Its elevation to mythical status in Australian sporting history occurred especially under the stewardship of Test captains Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, and Ricky Ponting.

Although the cap looks somewhat antediluvian in the modern era of international cricket, and offers very little protection from the sun, it is now an object of reverence: ‘Stars sing an ode to the baggy green.’ (Hobart Mercury, 17 November 1999) The cap has become such a potent symbol that in recent years even the players are sometimes called baggy greens:

With any luck the baggy greens are in a position to wipe the smugness from the Barmy Army’s faces. (Melbourne Age, 23 November 2013)

Baggy green is included in the recently released second edition of the Australian National Dictionary (2016).

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