Word of the Month—March: sausage sizzle

sausage sizzlenoun: 1. a fund-raising or social event for a club, school, etc. at which barbecued sausages are sold or provided. 2. a barbecued sausage in a slice of bread sold or provided at such an event.

The sausage sizzle has long been a feature of community events and fundraising in Australia. The term is almost 75 years old, and is first recorded in 1946. In recent decades the sausage sizzle has become an Australian icon, as familiar to us as lamingtons or Anzac biscuits.

On weekend trips to the hardware store many people are tempted by the charity sausage sizzle at the front entrance. And the alluring smell of the sausage sandwich fills the air outside polling booths on election day, when schools and community groups use the occasion to fundraise with sausage sizzles and other stalls. Such is its popularity with voters that the election-day sausage sandwich now has a name of its own: the democracy sausage, recorded from 2012.

A new meaning of sausage sizzle has developed in the 21st century. It is used alongside the original sense, but refers to the sausage sandwich itself, rather than the event that serves the sandwich. Early evidence appears in the mid-2000s, when a community choir in Canberra advertised an ‘end-of-year concert and social’ to which you could bring your own picnic ‘or buy a sausage sizzle.’ (Canberra Times, 3 December 2005)

Eating your sausage sizzle is a messy business. A politician’s failure to observe the ‘correct’ way to eat one (from end to end) provided comic relief for voters in 2016: ‘Voters across Australia were largely astounded on Saturday morning when opposition leader Bill Shorten bit into a sausage sizzle … from the side.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July)

Having a sausage sizzle has become an essential Australian activity, as this quote suggests:

… it was smiles all around for those who enjoyed a sausage or sweet treat to support bushfire relief. Brother and sister Oliver and Elizabeth Weston could hardly wait to tuck into their sausage sizzle at Bunnings Noosaville on Friday afternoon. (Noosa News, 28 January 2020)

Today it seems that sausage sizzle may be producing further new meanings, both verbal and adjectival. In addition, the compound terms sausage sizzle lunch and sausage sizzle breakfast are now well-attested.

The new sense of sausage sizzle will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

Image by Dave Reid from Pexels

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