Making the dictionary ‘fair dinkum’

By Mark Gwynn, Researcher and Editor at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, @ozworders

As a primary school student in the mid-1980s one of my favourite in-class activities was the ‘Dictionary Game’. My teacher, Mr Brenchley, would read out the definition of a word, and ask us to find the word that matched the definition in our dictionaries. There is one word that stands out in my memory, partly because I was the first to correctly guess it. Mr Brenchley read out the following definition: ‘false; pretended’, and gave us a clue that the word was also in the name of an Australian rock band (he always liked to add a bit of popular culture into the question). The answer was ‘pseudo’, and the band in the clue was of course Pseudo Echo. I can’t remember any of Pseudo Echo’s songs now, but as a lexicographer I’ve become familiar with the prefix pseudo-, and some of the words formed from it such as pseudonym. Back then, I also learnt from my dictionary that pseudo is derived from ancient Greek, as are many of the words in English beginning with ‘ps’. Dictionaries can teach us all kinds of information about words, language, and history, and Mr Brenchley introduced us to the riches of the dictionary.

If in the ‘Dictionary Game’ the question had been to guess what the words bludge, cooee, dinkum, or ute meant, we wouldn’t have been able to find them in our school dictionaries, because back in the early 1980s they contained almost no Australian words. The current edition of the Australian Schoolmate Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus has several hundred Australian words and meanings. Learning about Australian English is essential to understanding how English is spoken and written in Australia, and underlines the importance of having Australian dictionaries. It’s not just the obvious words like bogan and tradie that are Australian, but particular senses of standard English words. For instance, in this dictionary paddock has two senses: an Australian sense defined as ‘an enclosed piece of land, usually part of a rural property’, and a British sense defined as ‘a small field where horses are kept’. These distinctions across the dictionary are fundamental for understanding the variety of English we use in Australia.

In the sixth edition of the Australian Schoolmate Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus over 120 new words have been added, as well as a similar number of new senses, and many revisions have been made to existing entries. However, the addition of new material into a school dictionary is not necessarily the most important aspect of a new edition. As editor, it is my responsibility to make sure the core vocabulary that students need to be familiar with is up-to-date, and to provide guidance on usage. An interesting way of thinking about this core vocabulary is through the tool of a language corpus (a large set of texts that can be analysed for things such as word frequency and common word forms and grammatical features). The Oxford English Corpus, which we consult in our dictionary editing, contains over two billion words with just over a million of these representing lemmas (that is, the base form of word; jumps, jumping, and jumped are all example of the lemma jump). Amazingly only ten of these lemmas account for 25% of all the words in the Oxford English Corpus. These lemmas are: the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, and I. The 100 most common lemmas account for 50% of the corpus; the 1000 most common lemmas account for 75% and so on. As my colleagues at Oxford Dictionaries succinctly put it: English consists of a small number of very common words, a larger number of intermediate ones, and then a long ‘tail’ of much rarer terms. It is these common and intermediate words that are the most important for students’ literacy education.

While new words like 3-D printing, crowdfunding, selfie, and skype have been added – and these additions are important to reflect our changing society – it is the updates to existing entries that form a substantial part of the editing process. For example, in this edition of the Australian Schoolmate Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus, a new sense of cloud has been added: ‘(in computing) a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet and used to store, manage, and process data in place of local servers or personal computers’. The dictionary also contains a large number of usage boxes that provide guidance and clarification for words that can present difficulties with pronunciation, spelling, grammar, or their use in Australia. These are kept up-to-date to reflect changing attitudes to language, but also contain cautionary information that provides guidance to students about words that may no longer be appropriate to use, or where there is some confusion about the use of a word in particular contexts (e.g. alternate vs alternative). We aim for the Australian Schoolmate Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus to be an authoritative reference work for students to continue their journey of literacy learning and to discover the richness of English in Australia.

The Australian Schoolmate Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus has been placed on the shortlist for the Educational Publishing Awards Australia, to be announced in September.

Schoolmate dictionary

Celebrating Father’s Day with the ‘dad joke’

It appears that dad jokes are having a moment. Some of the coolest fathers on the planet are airing their own dad jokes, and some decidedly less cool dads are following suit.

The dad joke is described by OxfordDictionaries.com as, ‘An unoriginal or unfunny joke of a type supposedly told by middle-aged or older men.’

In the lead up to Father’s Day on Sunday, September 3, we’re showing our appreciation of these fatherly funnies by taking inspiration from the trendsetters and some less well-known jokers.

Barack Obama and Ryan Reynolds are just two of the high-profile dads publicly displaying their proclivity for the dad joke.

At his final Thanksgiving celebration as President of the United States, Barack Obama famously took the opportunity to display his prowess with the dad joke. After saying that his daughters were not present because they couldn’t take his turkey-related puns anymore, he swiftly moved on to unleash a few of his best:

 “When somebody at your table tells you that you’ve been hogging all the side dishes, you can’t have anymore, I hope you respond with a creed that sums of the spirit of the hungry people: Yes we cran.”

and

“I want to take a moment to recognize the brave turkeys who weren’t so lucky, who didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom, who met their fate with courage and sacrifice and proved that they weren’t chicken.”

Ryan Reynolds also got in on the act, posting this one to Twitter:

“Went to Disneyland because my daughter’s obsessed with Mickey Mouse. She was so excited when I got home and told her.”

Once confined to the privacy of the home, dad jokes are now doing the rounds on Twitter, with less famous dads joining Obama and Reynolds to share their best.

Twitter’s @baddadjokes has a whopping 33,000 followers. Some of @baddadjokes’ best include:

“What’s the difference between in-laws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted.”

“What’s the leading cause of dry skin? Towels”

“RIP boiled water. You will be mist.”

If you want to give your dad some inspiration for his next dad joke this Father’s Day, consider the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotes.

This hilarious collection of humorous quotations, full of wisecracks and wit, snappy comments and inspired fantasy, has been specially compiled by the late British broadcaster and raconteur Ned Sherrin, with a foreword by satirist, Alistair Beaton.

Fathers will be able to find the best lines from their favourite jokesters and wordsmiths, hopefully improving their own repertoire.

Entries range from Russell Brand’s cutting remark,

“No wonder Bob Geldof is such an expert on famine. He’s been feeding off ‘I don’t like Mondays’ for 30 years.”

to Arnold Schwarzeneger’s quip that deciding to run for governor of California was:

“The most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my entire life, except for the one in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.”

Long live the dad joke!

Humorous Quotations

Other Father’s Day gift ideas from Oxford University Press:

Holy ST       Companion to food      Beer

Sherlock       Wine

Move over, tennis mums, a new breed of tennis mom has arrived in the updated Oxford English Dictionary

You might remember the term tennis mum being used to describe women who returned to tennis after becoming mothers.

Now, tennis mom and tennis dad refer to parents who actively and enthusiastically support their child’s participation in the sport.

They are among the tennis-related, lifestyle, current affairs and educational terms included in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary.

More than 50 new words and 30 new senses related to tennis were added to the dictionary, after consultation with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

They included bagel, tennis slang coined by player Eddie Dibbs in the 1970’s, referring to a score in a set of six games to love due to the similarity of the numeral 0 to the shape of a bagel. Superbrat is also a word which is used in contexts other than tennis, but was famously applied to the tennis player John McEnroe by the British press in response to outbursts on court.

Forced error is used to describe a mistake in play which is attributed to the sill of one’s opponent rather than the player’s own misjudgment, while chip and charge refers to an attacking style of play, in which the player approaches the net behind a sliced shot.

What else is new to the OED?

A new usage of thing was introduced in the dictionary update, used in questions conveying surprise or incredulity, such as ‘how can that be a thing?’ This has been traced back to an early episode of television series The West Wing.

The new sense of woke, meaning ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’ has also been included. Its use by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in particular the phrase ‘stay woke’ is thought to have introduced the word to a broader audience, especially on social media.

Old sayings have also been tweaked, with footless (as in, footless drunk, an alternative to the more familiar ‘legless’) and son of a bachelor (a euphemistic alternative to ‘son of a bitch’).

Oxford Dictionaries announced post-truth as its 2016 Word of the Year, and since then, the huge increase in its usage has given the lexicographers enough evidence to add it to the OED.

In the educational sphere, the OED update included MOOC, an acronym for massive open online course, which you might have spotted on your social media feed and wondered about its meaning.

A range of words for wedding veils were added to the dictionary, including a birdcage veil, blusher veil, cathedral veil and fingertip veil.

Another lifestyle addition was the Danish trend and culture reference hygge, defined as ‘a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being’.

Finally, ZYZZYVA, referring to a genus of tropical weevils native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees became the new ‘last word’ in the OED.

You can find all the new new word entries, sub-entries and senses on the OED website.

For more on Australian dictionaries, visit the Australian National Dictionary.

 

 

Celebrity activism: do we really need another hero?

In Media and Society (6th ed. pp. 380–382), we discuss the pervasiveness of celebrity activism, particularly in recent times, considering social media’s ubiquity. Celebrity activists, including celanthropists (celebrity-philanthropist) and other cause endorsers and advocates locate themselves under multiple ‘issue’ banners. Some of these include humanitarianism, feminism, and political activism. Such celebrity engagement is not a new phenomenon. Now, though, it seems that connection to a cause is almost an expectation of celebrities as a method to leverage individual celebrity ‘brand(s)’. However, the explosion of celebrity activists providing opinions on various social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues, and pursuing charity and aid as self-interested pursuits can be problematic.

Critiques of celebrity activism include that it oversimplifies issues when celebrities lecture the public by assuming authority about complex matters, and that such activism tends to centre on the celebrity and their brand while diverting from substantive issues. By reflecting on some examples of celebrity activism aimed at counteracting the success of Donald Trump during the latter stages of the 2016 American Presidential campaign, we can briefly contemplate these critiques of celebrity activism in political and media landscapes.

We saw many politically motivated speeches, memes and videos by celebrities become ‘viral’ during the US election campaign. Some celebrities spoke out in the mainstream media, while many also regularly took to their social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss politics. Further, they often spoke about the candidates personally – Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, in particular – in both positive and negative ways. Often, sharing opinions and having these opinions re-shared on social media amplifies the celebritisation of politics. Whether such activism achieves its intended political goals may be questioned. However, what can’t be disregarded is the way these uses of social media and celebrity attract mainstream media attention. This, therefore, reinforces the perception of celebrities as effectual activists, and the tools of social media as politically valuable ones.

One of the viral videos during the Trump campaign featured Hollywood royalty, Robert De Niro, declaring: ‘I’d like to punch [Trump] in the face’. In another of the key anti-Trump videos, celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. used humour to mock their own fame in an to attempt to encourage people to vote. Since Trump’s election, Meryl Streep, also a member of Hollywood’s elite, took the stage of the 2017 Golden Globes to accept a lifetime achievement award, and used her time to discuss Trump, without actually naming him, but drawing attention to Trump’s behaviour in imitating a disabled journalist, and how this might be indicative of his future leadership style.

Each of these instances of celebrity activism received varied reactions. De Niro’s allusion to violence was considered troublesome, the ‘shit ton’ of celebrities in the Ruffalo campaign were regarded as incompatible with everyday Americans, and Streep was rebuked for misusing and misunderstanding her privilege to allege that those in the room at the Golden Globes ‘belong to the most vilified segments of American society right now’. This last critique represents perhaps both problems raised above: the distraction of celebrity (in this case drawing attention to Streep herself), and the oversimplification of issues. Streep’s statement about the vilification of celebrities failed to recognise the distance between elite ‘outsiders’ such as celebrities and the sectors of American society less able to protect themselves from condemnation and marginalisation because of their absence of wealth, status and power. None of the celebrity activism resulted in Trump’s defeat, due to a myriad of other concerns and forces at play in democracy, although it’s worth considering what such activism that resulted in mass media attention did achieve. Does the attention it brings signal that many people feel alienated from traditional politics?

Celebrity activism, as noted, can be controversial for several reasons. However, celebrity political activists can sometimes articulate what others cannot by using their privilege to speak up and out in mainstream and online media cultures to mass audiences. Therefore, even for this reason alone, there can sometimes be a place for celebrity activism in the quest for social and political change in the current cultural climate. Celebrity activism thrives during this time of dissatisfaction with traditional politics, and it is unlikely that this will be the last election that celebrity activists take to the stage to perform supporting roles.

9780195597240Sarah Casey  works at Griffith University and is an author on the sixth edition of Media and Society (2016).

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.

shutterstock_269821922-1

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.

crisis-proofing-signature-ad

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.

Channelling my inner Bean?

9780195576801The final volume of the Centenary History of Australia and the Great War series is about to appear, bringing with it sensations of both satisfaction and relief. It’s always a relief when a lengthy project comes to fruition successfully and this one began in the planning and funding stages in 2007. It is immensely satisfying to have had a hand in a significant historical project and to have enabled a talented team of historians to give expression to their scholarship for a wider audience.

I was centrally involved in an earlier centennial project, also published through Oxford University Press, at the time of the centenary anniversary of Federation in 2001. That series, The Australian Centenary History of Defence, was a larger and more complex project than the more recent one but both share features in common. The first is the lead time involved. Multi-volume, multiple-author projects take time to put together and time to produce their outcomes: books. The pool of available and suitably-qualified talent is not large and most working historians already have a full slate of immediate and long-term commitments. Funding the research involves reasonably-sized outlays and must be secured from somewhere, while at the same time it is recognised that the project cannot meet salary bills for the authors if the budget is to remain within feasible limits. The necessary corollary of this is that work on the books will have to be part-time in most cases. All of these factors mandate lengthy lead times from inception to completion.

This pretty much describes the shape of the project that unfolded. Funding was secured from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, on the basis that the series would constitute the Army’s major enduring activity during the Great War centenary. The timing here was fortuitous since it led to signed contracts before the Global Financial Crisis broke – which would most likely have entirely changed the outcome. Having agreed to support the project, successive Chiefs of Army were unwavering in their financial commitment in the face of some acute budget pressures over the next several years.

A subsequent Chief of Army used to joke that he was funding the project in order that I could ‘channel my inner [CEW] Bean’, a reference to the Australian official historian of the Great War whose 12 massive volumes (15 if you include the medical histories) are a memorial both to their author and the events with which he dealt. Our own series weighs in at a modest five volumes for a total of approximately 600,000 words, so in no meaningful sense were we attempting to imitate or otherwise compete directly with Bean’s history.

Not only have reading tastes (and attention spans) changed over the last century, but historians now have a wider range of contemporary sources available to them and can ask new or at least different questions of the evidence. As the work which underpins volume 5 in the series demonstrates, we are able to manipulate large data sets to gain definitive answers to questions about, for example, the composition and make-up of the AIF, enlistment rates across the war, or a host of things that previous generations of scholars simply could not. It’s not that we have set out to tell a different story (the Germans still lose the war) so much as tried to tell the story differently.

To this end we structured the series semi-thematically, driven by my belief that the interconnectedness of various aspects of the war and Australia’s experience of it are often lost sight of within traditional approaches that treat Gallipoli as separate from the defence of Egypt or the conquest of Sinai or which sees the Western Front in isolation from the rest of the war effort against the German empire. Equally, Australia’s military efforts are best understood in the context of the much greater Imperial and Allied projects of which they were a part. A quite different picture of the development and experiences of the Australian Flying Corps is imparted when it is seen as contributing to and benefitting from developments in British military aviation across the course of the war rather than as the story of four discrete squadrons operating in France and the Middle East. Finally, the politics of Australia’s war, its impact on the domestic economy, and the social cleavages and tensions that arose as the war dragged on did not exist in a vacuum, many of these issues had counterparts in Britain and the other Dominions, and such comparisons deliver a more nuanced understanding of their Australian manifestations.

The Great War constitutes one of the seminal formative events in the making and shaping of modern Australia. The men and women who fought in it are now gone and its events are confined to History with a capital ‘H’. A century on, our perspectives and understanding are and should be different from theirs. Our need to make sense of it all is no less great and we hope that the series contributes in a significant way to that process.

(Dr) Jeffrey Grey
Professor of History, UNSW Canberra
Series Editor, The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War

ww1-centenary
To learn more about the series, please visit our World War 1 Centenary page

Horace Hart: the fascinating creator of an Oxford classic

Shortly after I became Editorial Assistant at OUP, my manager lent me a book called New Hart’s Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors. It’s a useful and interesting book for an editor, as it tells you:

  • to avoid the greengrocer’s apostrophe (e.g. lettuces instead of lettuce’s)
  • the correct way to indicate stammering, paused or intermittent speech (“P-p-perhaps not,” she whispered.)
  • how to capitalise locations in outer space, such as the Milky Way or the moon
  • all 28 letters in the Welsh alphabet.

The original author of this book was Horace Hart (1840–1916), who was Printer to the University of Oxford and Controller of the University Press. According to OUP archivist Martin Maw, being the Printer in the late 1800s meant spending the working day (6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.) in the Oxford Printing House, a ‘warren, [where] one might meet attendants in the hot drying room sporting large paper hats against the sweat, blacksmiths, carpenters, or the chief wetter in the Wetting Cellar, moistening paper from the Wolvercote Mill in a shallow indoor bath’.[1] In our office, we don’t even have paper hats, let alone a Wetting Cellar.

When appointed to his role, Hart overhauled OUP’s dated practices: he introduced new types of printing (monotype and collotype), he travelled to Germany to purchase new fonts, and he expanded OUP’s ink factory. He also issued Rules for Compositors and Readers to ensure consistent first-proof correction – this would later become known as Hart’s Rules. The Preface of my updated version notes that the book ‘was originally a slim twenty-four-page booklet intended only for staff at the printing house … but Hart decided to publish it for the public after finding copies of it for sale’. [2]

Hart had a notorious temper – he was described by a later Printer as ‘a tyrant’ and once fell into a rage on seeing his compositors singing carols at work. The constant stress of the business is one explanation. According to Maw, Hart was required to balance the needs of ‘the Publisher, the Secretary, and the authorities in his parent university, his employees and their union, his suppliers, and the customers of his trade’.[3] These demands were too much: a series of nervous breakdowns led to Hart’s divorce and his retirement from the Press in 1915. The following year, he neatly folded his gloves on the bank of a lake and drowned himself.[4]

Despite his flaws, Hart’s influence on OUP was enormous and continues to this day. Hart’s book, for example, is the reason we spell Shakespeare the way we do. So next time you’re looking up whether to hyphenate a compass point (south-south-east), remember the man behind Hart’s Rules.

9780199570027

New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide
9780199570027
$35.95

Alex Chambers is an Editor in Higher Education. He is a keen supporter of the Melbourne Demons, well-placed commas and the communal sweet jar.


[1] Maw, M. ‘The Printer and the Printing House’, in Louis, R. (ed) (2013), The History of Oxford University Press: Volume III: 1896–1970, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 222
[2] Ritter, R.M. (2005), New Hart’s Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors, Oxford: Oxford University Press, vii
[3] Maw, 219
[4] Winchester, S. (2003),The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 121

How a textbook is made

A lot of work goes into creating a textbook.

Publishers, authors, designers and printers all need to work together to create high quality resources that help educators teach and students learn. Sometimes it can take four or more years for a textbook to go from idea to published book.

The below infographic presents the many stages a textbook goes through, illustrating our commitment to the dissemination of knowledge and our objective of excellence in research, scholarship and education.

How a textbook is made

Download the infographic as a PDF or JPEG.

All the facts in this infographic were correct at the time of publication.

Is word-of-mouth more powerful in China?

The sheer size and increasing wealth of the Chinese population makes China an attractive target market. There is no doubt that Chinese culture and history differs from the western world, but how do these differences translate into differences in Chinese buyer behaviour? And are there differences that should affect a brand’s growth strategy? This is a question we examine in How Brands Grow Part 2: Including Emerging Markets, Services and  Durables, New Brands and Luxury Brands. Here I briefly discuss a topical area: word-of-mouth (WOM).

Given the importance of family, relationships and social networks in the lives of the Chinese people, there is frequent speculation that WOM will have more influence on Chinese buyers. This can lead marketers to invest in more WOM-generation activities in China, at the expense of mass advertising. Two factors determine the usefulness of any media: reach and impact. WOM has limited reach, but might have more impact on those reached. We tackle the assumption that Chinese buyers are more affected by WOM than buyers in the USA.

Professor Robert East (co-author Chapter 7: Word-of-Mouth Facts Worth Talking About) highlights that to determine the relative influence of any received brand advice, you need to know the starting point, i.e. how likely they were to buy the brand prior to receiving the WOM. Buyers vary in their brand purchase propensities—some get WOM about a brand they are already highly likely to buy, while others get WOM about a brand where they have little initial interest.

East and colleagues found WOM is more influential when it reaches people with less chance of buying the brand initially (East et al., 2008), and is less influential on those with a higher probability of buying a brand. This is important when researching WOM in China, and comparing results to other countries.
For example, when we compared the influence of WOM in the automobile market in China versus the USA we found that China has a less mature automobile market. This means more buyers have a lower benchmark probability of buying a brand of automobile before they receive any WOM, compared to a similar sample of car owners from the USA. Figure 1 illustrates that the majority of category buyers from China have a benchmark probability of 40–60%, and three times as many people from the USA have a benchmark probability of over 90%. These differences affect aggregate assessments of impact.

Figure 1: Benchmark probability of buying a car brand prior to receiving WOM

Figure 1: Benchmark probability of buying a car brand prior to receiving WOM

One way to see if WOM really has a greater influence on Chinese buyers, compared to those in the USA, is to look at people who have a similar benchmark probability in the same category. So we compared buyers in each country with a benchmark probability of 50% chance of buying the brand. The result showed no evidence that WOM is more influential on the Chinese. So it would be misguided to invest a lot in WOM generation activities in China thinking that it would have a substantially higher impact. It might be that WOM has greater reach, or cut through, and these are possible reasons for investing in WOM (they of course need similar testing), but we don’t see any evidence of WOM’s higher impact. (See How Brands Grow: Part 2 Chapter 7 for more information on this and the testing of other WOM generalisations.)

How Brands Grow: Part 2 has other examples from China, covering diverse areas such as loyalty, brand competition, brand associations, attitudes and cross media exposure. Our approach is to test established knowledge and see if that holds as a first point of action. Our evidence is that much of the empirical knowledge from western markets also holds in China. When it comes to the laws of growth, China is a different country, not a different planet!

This doesn’t mean that important differences between China and western markets don’t exist. It’s just that we need to be careful to disentangle real differences in buyers from transient differences in factors such as category experience/maturity. Otherwise, you risk being caught out when the market does mature, as is happening in many packaged goods categories in China.

On a final note, just because the strategic path to growth might be similar in China, it doesn’t mean marketers can just roll out a ‘one size fits all’ marketing plan. China does have some major differences that will influence tactical choices, as do India, Indonesia, Brazil and other emerging markets. Whether your global brand is just getting started or is well established and looking to fight off competitors, the chapters in How Brand Grow: Part 2 on building mental and physical availability, as well as launching a new brand, are there to help you to prioritise smartly and avoid the common pitfalls of assuming there are big differences rather than relying on the evidence.

Further reading:
East, R., K. Hammond and W. Lomax (2008), ‘Measuring the impact of positive and negative word of mouth on brand purchase probability’, International Journal of Research in Marketing 25(3): 215–24.

Romaniuk, J., and East, R. (2016), ‘Word-of-Mouth Facts Worth Talking About’, How Brands Grow Part 2: Including Emerging Markets, Services and Durables, New Brands and Luxury Brands

9780195596267Professor Jenni Romaniuk
Executive Director (International) at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science (www.MarketingScience.info)
Author: How Brands Grow Part 2: Including Emerging Markets, Services and Durables, New Brands and Luxury Brands (2015).

 

Image source: How Brands Grow: Part 2; Adapted from figures in Chapter 7: Word-of-Mouth Facts Worth Talking About, How Brands Grow: Part 2.

The Anzac Legend

Ever since news of the landing at Gallipoli first reached Australia via the reporting of the British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, the achievements of the AIF have become embedded in Australian national consciousness. By the end of the war the AIF had come to be regarded as one of the premier Allied fighting forces, and [General Sir John] Monash as one of their most successful generals. Reflecting the widespread militaristic outlook of the early twentieth century, Gallipoli was regarded as the nation’s ‘baptism of fire’, which was understandable given that its only previous military involvement had been in the much smaller scale South African (Boer) War. What was, and is, less understandable is the suggestion that Gallipoli marked the birth of the nation, as if the very achievement of Federation in 1901 by peaceful means and the introduction of universal suffrage (Indigenous inhabitants excepted) was less significant in the history of the new Commonwealth. One hundred years on from the landing of 25 April 1915, ‘Anzac’ remains a contested concept that attracts vigorous criticism and impassioned defence. The fact that scores of thousands turn out every year at dawn services throughout the country suggests that the AIF as the original Anzacs continues to inspire new generations.

Mackay Regional Council

Anzac Day ceremonies became an annual fixture after the war. This one, held around a temporary memorial, was in Mackay, Queensland, in 1929.

Bean concluded his final volume of the official history by hailing the story of the AIF as a ‘monument to great-hearted men; and, for their nation, a possession forever’. That the AIF was able to achieve what it did truly is a remarkable story. It would have been almost inconceivable in the decade following Federation that Australia could raise a substantial force within a matter of months and dispatch it to fight in distant campaigns. Yet from the moment that Australia entered the war and opened recruiting until the first convoy sailed from Albany, less than three months had elapsed. It was because of the work of countless military and civil officers, and with the support of large sections of the Australian community, that the initial force of 20 000 men—one infantry division and a light horse brigade—was raised so quickly. That was a significant achievement in itself, but the ultimate expansion (and probably over-expansion) of the AIF to a strength of five divisions and the best part of two mounted divisions was, by any measure, an extraordinary effort on the part of a small (and new) nation. By 1918 the AIF was, by any reckoning (and here we can avoid the extravagant claims of some cheerleaders), among the best fighting forces in the empire and, indeed, in the whole of the Allied camp. In the process it produced officers (many from the ranks but also from the pre-war Militia/Citizen Military Forces) who could command at every level. Monash was the outstanding Australian officer that the war produced, and in some circles he was touted as a possible commander-in-chief for the whole of the British Expeditionary Force, but this move to elevate him to the very top was as much a political campaign as it was a sound evaluation of his capability. He was supported by a legion of subordinates, many of whom grew into their positions from a very low base of experience: war was to be the great teacher. The war also produced thousands of soldiers of all ranks who performed their duties efficiently and effectively.

Underpinning these achievements was, first, a training scheme that quickly developed into one that could turn untried civilians into soldiers in a short period, for time was always of the essence. From its arrival in Egypt in December 1914, the AIF had barely four months to create a semblance of a military force from the mass of raw recruits that had embarked in the first convoy. Thereafter as reinforcements arrived in Egypt and, after the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, in Britain for eventual deployment on the Western Front, the training system developed the capacity to keep units at the maximum strength that the flow of recruits would allow. This was no mean feat.

The second, and often overlooked, factor underpinning the exploits of the AIF was the complex yet efficient administrative system that was developed, one that extended from the front lines to the bases in Egypt, France and Britain, all the way back to Australia. It is a source of wonderment a hundred years on to see the level of detail that was recorded on an individual’s file and the efforts that were made to communicate to families the particulars of their loved ones at the front, thereby ensuring public support for the AIF, even when wider questions were increasingly contested. More generally the act of keeping track of movements, equipment and all the support functions necessary to keep the AIF in the field required remarkable administrative abilities across the whole of the AIF and the Department of Defence.

What made all this possible? In the first instance it must be recognised that although the AIF was largely formed from scratch in terms of the bulk of enlisted men, it did not spring from nowhere. The small cadre of officers who formed the tiny pre-war professional army, together with the more robust officers and men of the CMF (a number of officers quickly showed that the rigors of a campaign were beyond their mental and physical capacity and were let go), provided a solid base on which to build. Such men as [Inspector-General, Brigadier-General William] Bridges had honed their skills through experience, in Australia and in South Africa, and on attachment to and working with the British Army. It is fashionable in some ignorant circles to decry the influence of the British Army on the AIF, but the fact is that the AIF fought as part of a larger British formation: the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli, the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front and the Eastern Expeditionary Force in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Besides the indispensable support that the British Army and Britain more generally made available to the AIF, which was far beyond the capacity of Australian industry to provide, the British Army was, for better or worse (decidedly better by war’s end) the source of imperial military doctrine that made it possible for such a formation as the AIF to slot easily into wider operations.

Similarly, access to British training establishments was critical in enabling the AIF to develop over time its operational skills while, without the resources of the British Army medical system and its supporting network of hospitals, especially in Britain, the AIF could not have sustained the level of medical care that it was able to afford its sick and wounded. British officers who served with the AIF, from Birdwood down, rendered invaluable service, especially in such areas as staff work where the Australian military lacked deep experience. Again, much popular writing denigrates British officers (contemporary cartoons in unit newspapers mercilessly lampooned the monocled ‘toffs’ of the British military establishment), and there were certainly cases of incompetent British officers being posted to Australian units (just as there were incompetent Australian officers), but on the whole the

British officers who were attached to the AIF performed well, and the AIF would have been hard-pressed without them.

Nevertheless, although it is essential to acknowledge the inevitable reliance of the AIF on its far larger British counterpart, we should not underestimate the element of self-reliance that eventually made the AIF the force that it was by 1918. We should remember also that the fledgling force of 1914 bore little relation to the AIF of 1917–18. That it should become so highly valued within Allied circles was due in no small part to its officers, whose professional ability grew with experience. Monash, for example, had not done very well at Gallipoli; three years of hard fighting on the Western Front turned him into a leader to rank with the best. Those who held commissions in the CMF more on the basis of their social standing than because of their perceived ability were quickly weeded out in the AIF: demonstrable merit rather than background became the test for commissioning and promotion, an approach that served the AIF well.

Much has been made of the egalitarianism of the AIF, especially compared with what was regarded as the hidebound, class-conscious British Army. Emphasis on the latter can be exaggerated, but it is clear that officer–men relations in the AIF were more relaxed than in the British Army, not least because by the second half of the war many officers had come from the ranks. The AIF became notorious for the ill-discipline displayed by its members of various occasions, not only in comparison with the British Army but also with the Canadian and New Zealand forces. The vast majority of disciplinary cases arose from minor transgressions—drunkenness, overstaying leave, being out of bounds, using obscene language and so on—but there was a significant number of cases of criminal behaviour. Minor lapses in discipline and displays of ‘larrikinism’ could be excused as a release from the stresses of the front line, and in any case they largely escaped the attention of the public in Australia. It was a different matter when troops returned to Australia and engaged in public rowdiness and, in some cases, in such discreditable behaviour that there was danger of a public backlash against them.

‘Mateship’ is often touted as a peculiarly Australian characteristic, but this is a gross exaggeration, as though this tendency to stick together, whatever name is given to it, was not equally to be seen in every other army, especially those from the sister dominions. Australian troops might have been more overt in their demonstration of mateship, but the Diggers were no more concerned about their fellow soldiers than their counterparts from Canada and New Zealand, or indeed from the British Army. Australians did not have a monopoly on small group cohesion. What they shared in particular with their dominion counterparts was the fact that they were away from Australia for exceptionally long periods, and very few got home leave. This naturally focused emotions and a sense of responsibility on the soldier’s immediate surroundings—his platoon and company. The ‘fellowship of the trenches’ was a very real motivating factor that enabled men to endure the rigors of war.

[Charles] Bean was right when he wrote that the AIF became for Australia a possession forever.

The bitterness of the conscription campaign took years to fade and had long-lasting political effects, but the reputation of the AIF remained undiminished. When a second AIF was raised in 1939 it seemed only proper that, following in the footsteps of its famous forebear, it should adopt the names and numbering system of the 1st AIF (thus 2/10th Battalion, 2/12th Battalion and so on), with its divisions following on sequentially from the five divisions of the First AIF. Whatever the prevailing views about the Great War and ‘Anzac’ are—and they regularly change and mutate—the AIF is rightly firmly established in Australia’s consciousness as one of its great achievements.

9780195576801This extract is taken from The Australian Imperial Force.  Volume V of The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War series.

Explore Australia’s role in the First World War with our forthcoming local publishing, including a five volume series ‘The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War’.

ISBN 9780195576801 | Jean Bou & Peter Dennis | $59.95 | 26 May 2016

Image source: Mackay Regional Council