Oxford Word of the Month: February – doing the doors

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noun: (of a politician) giving doorstop interviews to the media, especially at Parliament House.

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

A favourite tactic of journalists seeking comment from politicians is to conduct a brief interview with them as they enter or leave a building. In Australia this kind of interview has been known since the early 1980s as doorstopping or a doorstop (‘I doorstopped the Premier, who ruled out an early election’; ‘cabinet members didn’t hold the usual doorstops before their weekly meeting’). In theory the doorstop is an impromptu occasion, but it is often used as an opportunity for a party or government to deliver a scripted message. It is a familiar piece of theatre on the nightly news.

In the twenty-first century we find a new term for this activity: doing the doors (‘the Member for Barcoo is doing the doors today’). The term casts politicians as agents seeking to be interviewed, rather than as innocent victims of doorstopping. The earliest recorded evidence shows that the ‘impromptu’ interview is often planned:

A new Labor backbencher has admitted the federal Government has a roster of MPs primed and ready to deliver the message of the day to waiting media as they walk through the doors of Parliament House every morning.
Doing the doors’ gives politicians a chance to comment on the issues of the day, to turn round negative stories in the papers and breakfast radio and TV, or add to their opponents’ discomfort. (The Australian, 19 June 2008)

Doing the doors in the political sense is an Australian English term. An older meaning exists for the same expression in Australia and elsewhere; it describes the job of a bouncer, who controls the intake of patrons at clubs and pubs, or the job of a door person, who sells tickets at the door of an event or performance.

A sense of performance is certainly inherent in the Australian meaning, and critical reviews are not uncommon. One commentator referred to the politicians who ‘do the doors’ at the bidding of their leaders as ‘puppets reciting their prepared statements when allocated the task of “doing the doors” for the television grabs’. (Crikey, 10 June 2011) Another described doing the doors as ‘the cute ritual of pollies lining up at the main entrance on the Reps side of the building to deploy pithy one-liners for the assembled media hacks’. (West Australian, 1 December 2009)

But doing the doors continues to be an important ritual for media and politicians, and, despite cold winters and frosty mornings in the nation’s capital, the show must go on:

Frost lay on the ground. Hot air balloons hung in the sky. At 7.50am in the national capital, Eric Abetz was doing the doors. (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2010)

 

Doing the doors will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

 

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Oxford Word of the Month: January – egg flip

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noun: a kitchen utensil with a broad flat blade for lifting and turning food.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The history of egg flip is an interesting one. In standard English use, dating back to the 1830s, it is a sweetened milk drink containing beaten egg, with rum, brandy, or other flavouring. Many, perhaps older, Australians will know a tame version without alcohol from childhood. (It used to be recommended as food for invalids.) The second element in this sense of egg flip may derive from flip in the sense ‘to whip up’.

The first exclusively Australian meaning occurs in the 1950s, when egg flip is recorded as rhyming slang for a racing ‘tip’:

As a horse was led close to them, the Wrecker, eager for information, addressed the trainer: ‘Ah Doc, how about givin’ a bloke d’egg flip?’ (J. Alard, He Who Shoots Last, 1968)

Since this time, another Australian meaning of egg flip has become much more common than the rhyming slang sense. It refers to the long-handled kitchen utensil with the broad, flat blade, used for turning and lifting food such as fried eggs, rissoles, and pancakes. (The same thing is called a fish slice in British English.) Australians have several names for this utensil, with spatula perhaps the most common, but egg flip is also widely used.

It is unclear whether this sense of egg flip is related to the earlier egg and milk drink. Perhaps it was influenced by the existence of the older term, but with a different understanding of the second element. Anyone flipping pancakes with this utensil is likely to interpret the flip in egg flip as meaning ‘to turn over’.

Recorded evidence is fairly recent, dating back to this report of a recipe for ‘Egg Toast’:

Fry the … slices in the frying pan with the margarine. …Turn the toast over with the egg flip, fry that side too. (Canberra Times, 26 July 1985)

However, anecdotal evidence suggests the name egg flip for the utensil is likely to be found earlier than the 1980s. The following editorial comment in a Western Australian newspaper is tantalising as possible early evidence:

Many thanks for the item, which I handed to ‘Virgilia’ as suitable for her pages. ‘Sonny Boy’ apparently did not appreciate your method of applying the egg flip. (Perth Western Mail, 13 January 1938)

‘Virgilia’ was the name of the editor of the ‘Virgilians’ Friendly Corner’ section of the newspaper, which published letters from women about their lives and families. In this context, the reference to ‘applying the egg flip’ to ‘Sonny Boy’ may (unfortunately) point to the punishment of a child with the utensil.

Egg flip will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is ‘youthquake’

Oxford Dictionaries today announced its 2017 Word of the Year: ‘youthquake’.

Youthquake is defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.

The word was selected from a shortlist using data collated by Oxford Dictionaries editors, which revealed a fivefold increase in usage of youthquake in 2017 compared to 2016.

The word first struck in a big way in June with the UK’s general election at its epicentre.

On 18 April, Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the Conservatives, called a snap election triggering seven weeks of intense political campaigning. After the British public went to the polls on 8 June, headlines emerged of an unexpected insurgence of young voters.

So despite higher engagement figures among the baby boomer generation and despite Labour ultimately ending up with fewer seats than the Conservatives in the House of Commons, many commentators declared that ‘It was the young wot “won” it for Jeremy Corbyn’, and dubbed their collective actions a ‘youthquake’.

It was in September that the second, and largest, spike in usage of youthquake was recorded for the year – and a youthquake wasn’t even required to deliver this data.

Thanks to the precedent established in the UK, in New Zealand use of youthquake to discuss young people’s engagement in politics was rapidly picked up by politicians and the press alike during the country’s general election. The word enjoyed increased and sustained usage both prior to and after the polling, setting youthquake firmly on its way to become a fixture of political discourse.

The term was coined when, in 1965, emerging from a post-war period of tumultuous change, Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Vogue, declared the year of the youthquake.

In an editorial in the Vogue US January edition that year, she wrote: ‘The year’s in its youth, the youth in its year. … More dreamers. More doers. Here. Now. Youthquake 1965.’

Oxford Dictionaries President Casper Grathwohl said that while youthquake had not yet made an impression in the US, evidence showed that it certainly had made an impression in the UK.

“We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest. But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting our deep unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note.”

Youthquake was selected from the shortlist below.

Shortlist graphic Final

Find more about youthquake at Oxford Dictionaries.

 

 

 

 

Australian Word of the Year 2017: Kwaussie

Kwassie has been named Australian Word of the Year 2017!

Kwaussie: ‘a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand; a New Zealander living in Australia; a person of Australian and New Zealand descent’.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at The Australian National University, selected Kwaussie, a blend of Kiwi and Aussie, as the most interesting term associated with the dual citizenship crisis engulfing the Australian Parliament in 2017.

It was used to describe the most high-profile casualty of the crisis, Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce. He revealed to parliament in August that, despite being born and bred in country New South Wales, he was also a New Zealander by descent. The first evidence is found in a 2002 New Zealand newspaper article discussing Russell Crowe: he is described as a ‘Kwaussie (what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can’t decide whether they’re a Kiwi or an Aussie’).

Subsequent evidence suggests its use is predominantly Australian, and is found chiefly in social media (and also found with spelling variants including kwozzie and kwozzy). Thanks to the two kwaussies identified as ineligible to sit in parliament, Barnaby Joyce and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, the term is now becoming better known.

Kwaussie was chosen from a shortlist which included makarrata, jumper punch, postal survey, robodebt and WAXit.

The 2017 Word of the Year  shortlisted words are selected by the editorial staff of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who with Oxford University Press publishes the Australian National Dictionary of words and phrases unique to Australia.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre undertakes research into Australian English in partnership with Oxford University Press, and edits Australian dictionaries for Oxford University Press.

The Word of the Year is based on extensive research as well as public suggestions. Vote for your 2017 Australian Word of the Year:

 

View the previous Words of the Year on the ANDC blog page:

2016 – democracy sausage
2015 – sharing economy

2014 – shirtfront
2013 – bitcoin
2012 – green-on-blue

Oxford Word of the Month: December – John Farnham

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noun: used allusively of a comeback or reappearance, especially after a final performance or retirement.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

John Farnham (‘Johnny’ in his early days) is a hugely successful Australian contemporary pop singer. His professional career spans fifty years from the 1960s until the present, and his 1986 album Whispering Jack remains the highest-selling album in Australia. With ‘The Last Time’ tour (2002–2003) he announced his intention to stop touring nationally, but he has made several comeback tours since then. Indeed, his love of touring has made his name a byword for an inability to remain in retirement:

She said she wouldn’t but Suzi Quatro has done a John Farnham, booking an encore tour two years after her farewell tour of Australia. The leather-clad legend … gets the joke when asked if she was ‘doing a Farnsie’. (Townsville Bulletin, 28 September 2016)

The Farnham habit is not restricted to the music business:

Some call it persistence and tenacity. My daughter describes it as a Johnny Farnham comeback. I call it standing up and fighting for what you believe in, and not allowing the bastards to grind you down. (Pauline Hanson on her return to political life, maiden speech to the Senate, 14 September 2016)

And there are a number of variations on the theme. You can find evidence for do a Farnham, pull a Farnham, chuck a Farnsie, and have more comebacks (or farewells) than John Farnham. The Johnny Farnham comeback tour is the name of a cycle ride on a social network site for athletes (Strava, 23 April 2017), and the phrase was also used to describe a Question Time tactic in the Australian parliament:

By yesterday, awkward segues to Dastyari were looking a little tired; today they felt like a John Farnham comeback tour. (The Monthly, 14 September 2016)

The use of Farnham’s name in this way harks back to another Australian singer renowned for comebacks: Dame Nellie Melba, the world-famous operatic soprano. She staged a number of ‘farewell’ concerts in the 1920s, with her last in 1930, the year before she died. Her name lives on in phrases that date from the 1940s and are still in use today: to do a Melba and more farewells than Melba. However, in the comeback context, John Farnham is now giving Dame Nellie a run for her money.

The allusive use of John Farnham and variants on the name will be considered for future inclusion in the Australian National Dictionary.

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Bogans are not what they used to be, according to the latest dictionary update

If you thought you knew the definition of a bogan, think again.

Language is a continuously changing landscape, in which new words appear, others fade out of general usage and some evolve and take on different meanings.

Bogan is one of the evolving terms that attracted the attention of the team at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, which is responsible for editing the 6th edition of the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary (ACOD), released this week.

They provided the list below of terms that have evolved since they appeared in the 5th edition of the ACOD.

Bogan

Bogan is one of the words which have changed since the previous edition of the ACOD was released. Bogan first appeared in the 1980s and was originally defined as, ‘a person who is regarded as being uncultured and unsophisticated, esp. such a person from a low socio-economic or poorly educated background.’

However, in the 2017 edition, gone is the reference to socio-economic status, with two (potentially insulting) definitions in its place.

The new definition reads, ‘an uncultured and unsophisticated person; a boorish and uncouth person.’

Rather than confining bogans to a certain socio-economic group, now any of us can be a bogan. The emergence of the term CUB ‘cashed-up bogan’ this century was an early indicator of this shift.

Generation X

The definition of Generation X has also changed over the years. Originally referring to, ‘young adults who were born in the mid 1960s to mid 1970s, typically perceived to be disaffected and directionless’, members of Generation X are no longer considered to be young or typically disaffected or directionless.

The  new definition of Generation X is, ‘the generation born after that of the baby boomers (roughly from the early 1960s to mid 1970s)’.

Internet

It is not surprising that technology has changed the words we use, and even the term ‘Internet’ itself has evolved. While previously defined as, ‘an international information network linking computers, accessible to the public via modem links etc’, it is now, ‘a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardised communication protocols’.

journalist

Just as technology has introduced new words, so has it changed others. A journalist was formerly described as, ‘a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio and television’, with the proliferation of internet news sites it has become, ‘a person who writes for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or prepares news to be broadcast’.

Mr Right

Changing social attitudes (and in some countries legislative changes) mean that women are not the only ones looking for the ideal future husband or boyfriend. As a result, the definition of Mr Right has changed from, ‘a single woman’s ideal partner or husband’, to ‘the ideal future husband or boyfriend’.

For more on changes to the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, see What do selfie stick, paleo diet and whatevs have in common?

What do selfie stick, paleo diet and whatevs have in common?

Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand today launched the sixth edition of its renowned Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, which includes more than 2000 new entries and over 3000 updates to existing words.

Edited by Mark Gwynn and Amanda Laugesen from the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) at The Australian National University, the sixth edition sees new words across technology, food, finance and economics, as well as social buzz words included in the dictionary.

Australia’s growing food culture and multicultural influences have resulted in new words emerging in the Australian lexicon, including achacha (the edible fruit of a South American tree with a large flesh-covered seed), kibbeh (in Middle Eastern cooking, a mixture of minced meat, bulgur or rice, and seasonings, typically served in the form of croquettes stuffed with a filling), and yuzu (a round, yellowish citrus fruit with fragrant, acidic juice, used chiefly as a flavouring). The influx of diet trends has resulted in words such as paleo diet, 5:2 diet, and meatatarian being added to the dictionary.

Reflecting changes in the economic landscape, finance and economics words such as debt ceiling, fiscal cliff, and onshoring have been incorporated into the latest edition.

The continual development of technology and social platforms has resulted in dark web, hacktivist, insta, photobomb, selfie stick, and zettabyte becoming common words in Australian English.

Fat shaming, First World problem, sandwich generation, and whatevs are also among the 2000-plus new entries.

Editor of the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary and ANDC Director, Dr Amanda Laugesen, says, ‘The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary not only offers up-to-date information on the English language as it is spoken in Australia, but also demonstrates the way the language is constantly evolving, reflecting social, political, and cultural change.’

The sixth edition of the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary provides guidance to usage and spelling of words, reflecting the most up-to-date research on the English language.

OUP ANZ Managing Director Peter van Noorden is thrilled to be launching the sixth edition of the dictionary.

“Every year, I’m intrigued by the new entries that make it into the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, which draws on the expertise of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and Oxford Dictionaries,” Mr van Noorden said.

“The English language continues to evolve due to influences and products that change the way we think or act. From technology to multiculturalism, to our changing global political landscape, new words are formed and become common in our everyday language.”

“We’re excited to cement these words in our dictionary, which continues to be a trusted and essential guide to Australian English.”

As part of Dictionary Day, Mr van Noorden encouraged the Australian public to get involved by submitting any words or terms that are new or used in unusual ways to Word Box. Words that are submitted may be included in future editions of the dictionary, or even become the Australian Word of the Year. Entries can be submitted all year round via the Word Box.

The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary will be available to purchase from 26 October at a recommended retail price of $44.95 (hardback) and $39.35 (paperback).  For more information, visit the Australian National Dictionary website.

 

Finding new Australian words

By Julia Robinson, editor and researcher at the Australian National Dictionary Centre

It’s a year since we celebrated the launch of the new Australian National Dictionary, with its 16,000 Australian words and meanings. Since then we have not been taking it easy and neither has Australian English—we began collecting new words even as we sent off the manuscript to the publisher. We now have more than 300 items worthy of further research.

Our list is deliberately inclusive since we can’t know which terms will prove to be stayers. A number are new or recent coinages that just missed our editorial deadline; others are older terms we rejected as having too little evidence, but now look more established; some are speculative; and some simply flew under our radar. Here is a sample of the terms under consideration as future entries.

Familiar Australian words such as bush, koala, Anzac, and preference (the political sense) are the basis for newer terms: bush rave (a rave party in the bush); koala diplomacy (the loan or gift of koalas to another nation’s zoo, as a form of soft-power diplomacy); Anzac fatigue (what we feel after over-exposure to Anzac centenary commemoration); and preference harvesting (the flow of preferences to a micro-party or independent as a result of strategic preference deals).

We continue to coin terms related to politics. The double-dissolution federal election last year alerted us to the abbreviation double D, and the same election helped popularise the democracy sausage (the sausage sandwich you buy on election day at a polling booth sausage sizzle). The term sixty-sevener (a campaigner for the 1967 referendum) glances back in time; current concerns are reflected in quarry vision (our continuing fixation with coal as a major source of energy and revenue). A nickname for Greens politicians may be more ephemeral: tree tories (conservative on economic policy).

State-based terms are represented on our list, especially from Tasmania. Tassie tuxedo (a puffer jacket); turbo chook (the Tasmanian native hen, a flightless bird with a fast turn of speed); and flannelette curtain. If you live on the wrong side of the flannelette curtain in Hobart, you live in the poorer suburbs—the wrong (flannie-shirt wearing) side of town. Western Australia gives us white, a term for a western rock lobster that is a pale pinkish-white colour after moulting, and white run, the annual event in late spring when whites migrate in large groups to spawning grounds in deeper water. Branch-bombing (branch-stacking) also seems to be associated with the west.

The typical Australian habit of creating words with an ‘ie’ or ‘o’ ending is still going strong. Recent coinages include convo (conversation); deso (designated driver); devo (devastated); smashed avo (seasoned, mashed avocado on toast); reco (surgical reconstruction, as in knee reco); nettie (a netball player); parmi (parmigiana, as in the dish chicken parmi); and shoey (the act of drinking alcohol out of a shoe to celebrate a victory).

The word kangaroo continues to be productive in Australian English, contributing to kangatarian (a person who eats kangaroo meat but avoids other meat, on environmental grounds). The trend for using ‘roo’ as a suffix in the names of national sporting teams (Socceroos, Hockeyroos, etc.) continues with the Wheelaroos (our wheelchair rugby team). We have also found ‘roo’ in wazzaroo, a one-off coinage for a roadkill kangaroo (‘was a roo’).

Several well-known Australians contribute to our list. John Farnham’s fondness for farewell shows is celebrated in Johnny Farnham comeback and chuck a Farnsie (referring to a comeback, especially after a farewell performance or retirement). Rugby League player Trent Merrin’s private life is alluded to in doing a merrin (having a partner who is considered out of one’s league). The historical figure Ned Kelly still has a grip on our imagination. He gives his name this century to the Ned Kelly letterbox (a letterbox resembling Kelly’s armour, especially the helmet, where the eye opening is the mail slot). The expression Black Caviar odds (very short betting odds) honours the four-legged legend of the racetrack, Black Caviar, undefeated in all her starts.

Our concern for wildlife is apparent in the terms resnagging (putting old logs back into river systems to restore habitat for native fish) and pinky (a pink, hairless pouch young, especially a baby wombat or kangaroo). An orphaned pinky may be rescued from the pouch of a female killed on the road, and relocated by carers into the pouch of a surrogate mother. We have seen this described as pouch-surfing, a play on ‘couch-surfing’. An old term we’ve discovered recently for a baby mammal is platypup, a name for platypus young, first used in the 1940s with reference to the first platypus bred in captivity.

Finally, we have collected a number of new idioms, such as calm your farm (calm down, relax), a twenty-first century expression we share with New Zealand; and more new starts than Centrelink (referring to someone who has had more chances or opportunities than they may deserve). For variants on established Australian idioms, Mark Gwynn discusses some results from our social media campaign elsewhere in this issue.

A living language is never fully contained between hard covers. Even so, we have been surprised by the number of potential Australianisms we’ve identified in a short period of time. We hope to continue gathering new words at a similar rate over the course of the next twelve months as we move towards launching the Australian National Dictionary on the Internet.

 

 

Social media and classic Aussie idioms

By Mark Gwynn, editor and researcher at the Australian National Dictionary Centre

This year the ANDC is using social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to find variations on a number of well-known Australian idioms. The responses we receive are providing evidence for our Australian English database, and may be considered for inclusion in future editions of our dictionaries.

The established idioms we have looked at so far are to have a head like a robber’s dog, to be a stubby short of a six-pack, and to chuck a wobbly.  Evocative expressions like these and the creative use of idiom are typical of Australian English, so we were not surprised by the positive feedback from social media users when we asked them what similar expressions they knew based on these forms.

Here is a brief summary of our findings to date.

  • To have a head like a robber’s dog (to be very ugly or unattractive). This is first recorded in the 1940s, and we already had evidence of these established variants: a head like a drover’s dog, a head like a beaten favourite, and a head like a sucked mango. We had a great response on social media, with our followers providing many variants including: a head like a bucket of smashed crabs, a head like a chewed minty, a head like an angle grinder, and a head like a kicked-in biscuit tin. A number of followers also suggested variants on a similar idiom with the same meaning, replacing ‘head’ with ‘face’: to have a face like a dropped pie and a face like a smacked bum.
  • To be a stubby short of a six-pack (to be very silly, mad, or eccentric). First recorded in the mid-1990s, this is one of a number of idioms, with the same meaning, that follow the formula ‘an X short of a Y’. The formula is found in standard English today, but the earliest evidence is Australian. Established Aussie variants include: a sausage short of a barbie, a sandwich short of a picnic, a zac short of a quid, a kangaroo short of a full paddock, and a few snags short of a barbie. Our followers responded enthusiastically to this form and provided a number of variants including: a boiled lolly short of a raincoat, a few bricks short of a wall, a few slices short of a loaf, a few spring rolls short of a banquet, a few peanuts short of a Snickers, and two wafers short of a communion.
  • To chuck a wobbly (to become angry or to have a fit of temper). This idiom dating from the mid-1980s is a variant of the British English to throw a wobbly. In Australian English the word chuck, meaning ‘to perform’, ‘to do’, or ‘to put on’, is found in a number of established forms including: chuck a berko, chuck a mickey, chuck a willy, all with the same meaning as chuck a wobbly. As well, there are several other chuck forms with different meanings, such as: chuck a browneye (make the rude gesture of bending over and exposing one’s buttocks and anus); chuck a sickie (take a day’s sick leave from work, when often not ill at all); and chuck a uey (do a U-turn). We asked for other idioms based on chuck, but this request elicited the least response on social media. Our followers struggled to provide variants, with the exception of chuck a tanty, chuck a hissy fit, and chuck a lucky seven.

Do you know of any other variations on these idioms? We would love to hear about them. And please stay tuned to our social media platforms (@ozworders and Australian National Dictionary Centre, ANU) for the next idiom to get a guernsey in our search.

 

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