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

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.

 

 

Australian Word of the Year 2016

Democracy sausage has been named Australian Word of the Year 2016.
he_word_of_the_year_infograpihc_sausageDemocracy sausage: A barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at The Australian National University, selected democracy sausage because of its increased prominence in Australia in a year of election campaigns.

Democracy sausage was chosen from a shortlist which included census fail, smashed avo, shoey, deplorables and Ausexit.

For more information on the Australian Word of the Year click here.

The 2016 Word of the Year and shortlist 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 2016 Australian Word of the Year:


Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth. For more information read their blog post.

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

2015 – sharing economy
2014 – shirtfront
2013 – bitcoin
2012 – green-on-blue

he_word_of_the_year_infographic_shortlist

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9780195550269This article was inspired by entries from the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary. This dictionary is the only comprehensive, historically-based record of the words and meanings that make up Australian English. It is a unique lexical map of Australian history and culture.

The dictionary was produced at the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University. The Centre, established in 1988, is a joint venture of theAustralian National University and Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand.

Chief Editor: Dr Bruce Moore is a former Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre (1994–2011). He has edited a number of OUP dictionaries, including the Australian Oxford Dictionary.
Managing Editor: Dr Amanda Laugesen
Editors: Mark Gwynn, Julia Robinson

[Image source: Shutterstock ID 3090849]

Upcoming events for the Australian National Dictionary Second Edition

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

AND2e

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

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

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

Please follow the link to RSVP.

 

We hope to see you there!

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