Posted on 16 May 2022

Political slang: from gaffes to faceless men

Aussie Word of the Week

With the Federal election almost upon us, we delved into our database to help you make sense of the slang and jargon your candidates have been spouting on the campaign trail.  We've heard a lot about the dreaded gaffe during this election campaign. A gaffe is defined as a social blunder. Someone who is inclined to make slips of the tongue or cause embarrassment in some way is deemed gaffe-prone. A particuarly bad gaffe could be considered a shocker.  Have you heard of the faceless men? No, they aren't a secret assassins guild, they are men who exercise political power without having to take on personal or public responsibility for their actions. Oh, hang on, I guess they are a sort of secret guild after all.  The House is a local nickname Canberrans have given to Parliament House. Who lives at Parliament House? Well, pollies of course. This shortened form of politician has been part of the Aussie lexicon since the 1960s.  Swing isn't just what children do at the play park, it's also the measure of the electoral support transferred from one party to another, as expressed in percentage points, between a party's vote at one election and its vote at the next.  We can't talk about political slang in election season without mentioing the democracy sausage. You can read more about what is possibly Australia's greatest democratic tradition on our blog.  Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 9 May 2022

Can you hack it?

Aussie Word of the Week

This week, we have hacked out a space for all the hacks. When we searched hack in our database we had one election inspired word in mind: party hack, a long-time, loyal member of a political party, especially one who does menial work for the party, but there were just so many definitions of hack that we couldn't resist exploring this versatile word further.  Another election related hack is a political hack: a politician who pursues the narrow goal of ensuring that his or her party is in power, often using methods that are to do with the exercise of power or the pursuit of expediency. Can the political hacks hack it? That is, do they have patience.  I'm sure we all know about hackers by now. The Macquarie defines a hacker as a person who is adept at manipulating computer systems, especially someone who achieves unauthorised access to the computer system of a business organisation, government department, etc., or who achieves unauthorised access to a person's digital device, as a phone or tablet computer. In recent years, several types of hackers have emerged. There are ethical hackers: a hacker who attempts to hack into a computer network or device in order to test its level of security, and hacktivists: people who use their ability as hackers to further a political cause. If manipulating computer systems isn't enough you might try your hand at biohacking, a method for managing one's own biology, by using measures to improve it such as meditation, nutritional supplements or therapeutic techniques such as aromatherapy. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.      
Posted on 2 May 2022

Are you a happy little vegemite?

Aussie Word of the Week

At the Macquarie Dictionary we like to spread good cheer. To celebrate our good mood, we rummaged around the Dictionary database in search of words and phrases that express that happiness. That's why this week’s word of the week is happy little vegemite. :) :) :)  A happy little Vegemite is a person in a good mood, as in, Look at the happy little Vegemites working away in there. This slang sense first appeared in the 1980s and originated in the well-loved advertising jingle for the spread Vegemite, which first filled Australian airwaves back in 1954. While happy little Vegemite mainly refers to children in a positive sense, there are tons of other happy slang words that encompass adults and children alike. To be happy as Larry means you are extremely happy. This Aussie slang dates from the 1900s but just who this Larry was and how he could have been happy enough to become a byword for joy is unknown. If you're not quite as happy as our friend Larry you can still be a happy camper: a person who is very pleased, though this one originates in the United States and not Australia.  As we're partial to a bit of swearing, we couldn't leave off without reminding everyone that you can be as happy as a pig in shit.  Now that we're all beatified, we'll call an end to this week's blog. We hope you have a red-letter day. Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 2 May 2022

Five new words for May

It’s the start of May, so here’s your monthly helping of new words that may enter the Macquarie Dictionary! Up first is a new word from the internet that has already been circulating in the media: goblin mode, a pattern of behaviour characterised by an embrace of indolence and slovenliness. It is apparently epitomised by the cat in this video. We’re unsure why goblins have been made the face of what is quintessentially human behaviour, though… Next up is prebunking, the practice of addressing false information before it is published. You’d be right to guess that it’s a play on debunking, but did you know that the bunk in debunk is a shortening of bunkum? And that bunkum itself, meaning ‘insincere talk’, was coined after a member of the US House of Representatives made an infamously tedious and irrelevant speech in 1820 on behalf of his constituents in Buncombe County, North Carolina? It’s quite the derivation! Another contender is spillback. When COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans, it was an instance of spillover. But now that it’s been spreading far and wide in the community, we face the risk of spillback: humans infecting other species with the disease. You may have heard of huge spillback outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink farms overseas, for example. Let’s round things out with two new colloquialisms: graff, a shortening of graffiti, and swerve, a transitive verb meaning ‘to avoid or ignore’, as in ‘I think he’s swerving me’. Over to you – do you think any of these words should be in the Macquarie Dictionary?
Posted on 18 April 2022

Lair lair

Aussie Word of the Week

There are few more inspiring sights than a group of sharply dressed young blokes loitering on the street corner with absolutely no ill intentions, and so, inspired by the upstanding behaviour of such young men we selected lair as this week's Word of the Week. A lair isn't just a supervillain’s hideout, it's also a flashily dressed young man of brash and vulgar behaviour.  'Flashily' dressed might depend on your personal definition of what constitutes well-dressed but the idea of linking clothing to behaviour got us thinking about other ways to describe such young men. The first word we thought of was lad. Originally a word for a boy, lad is now commonly used for an adult man who behaves obnoxiously or in a chauvinistic way while engaged in laddish behaviour like drinking to excess.  Lads typically wear brand name clothing and present an image of an aggressive troublemaker. Ladette is the young female partner of a lad, with similar dress style and behaviour. Lad culture seems to have mainly arisen in 1990s Britain where it was linked to footballing and music cultures, but it lives on, even in Australia where a lad is known as an eshay. Though there are differences between eshays and lads.  So, there we have it. If you want to engage in some lairise or ladish behaviour, then you can either lair it up or lair about.  Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 4 April 2022

Crikey! Aussie slang overseas

Aussie Word of the Week

For our first Word of the Week after an extended break, we thought we would step outside ourselves to profile Aussie slang that is popular overseas. The words selected often represent stereotypical, sometimes out of date versions of Australia. Others are timeless and infamous in equal measure. Brace yourself for the cultural cringe.   Out first word is crikey. This euphemism for the blasphemous exclamation Christ! isn't exclusively Australian but was taken on board by Aussie swearers with great gusto and could now be said to belong to Aussies. The vociferous late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin brought this oath to the attention of Americans who now think we all go around saying crikey! all day. The one place this is true is at the Irwin's Australia Zoo, where crikey is plastered on every billboard and poster.  What's next, oh, how about we throw another shrimp on the barbie? Or not. Thanks to a 1980s advertising campaign by the Australian Tourist Commission that featured Paul Hogan, from whose lips the faux ocker phrase dropped, Americans incorrectly believe that Aussies call prawns shrimp and go around chucking them on the barbeque.  G'day is another phrase that is well known overseas. Perhaps again due to Paul Hogan. After all, that famous advertisement was captioned 'come and say g'day.'  At the risk of this blog becoming a miniature history of the Tourism Australia, we couldn't leave without mentioning another famous advertisement and its associated catchphrase. So where the bloody hell are you! was the controversial centrepiece of a 2006 Tourism Australia advertising campaign. We're here Lara!! The advert was apparently so offensive to the British that it was briefly banned on UK TV. Did you know the whole campaign was approved under the direction of no less a figure than Prime Minister Scott Morrison?  Oh, and finally a note on Foster's beer, the true blue Aussie beer that despite being promoted overseas with catchphrases such as 'get some Australian in you,' isn't actually that popular in Australia.  Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 1 April 2022

Five new words apropos of April

It’s April 1st, and we all know what that means – it’s New Words time! The first new word for your consideration is bike shedding. It refers to the tendency to spend a disproportionate amount of time on trivial matters or decisions because they are easier to consider. The word comes from a fictional example of the phenomenon given by British historian Cyril Parkinson, in which a committee tasked with designing a nuclear power plant spends most of its time discussing how the employee bike shed is to be constructed. Our next new word has to do with a less subtle way our brains lead us astray. Urge surfing is the use of mindfulness to experience one’s urges without succumbing to them. It contrasts interestingly with a psychological technique that was one of our new words in February, thought stopping. Urge surfing means riding your urges out, whereas thought stopping means blocking them out.  Let’s get into a more positive headspace with the third new word: compersion. It’s the joy one feels when someone one loves finds happiness. Originating in the polyamorous community, where it is often used in reference to one’s partner experiencing love with another, its meaning has apparently broadened and it is sometimes succinctly described as the opposite of jealousy. Rounding things out, we have parklet, for a moveable arrangement of seating and greenery placed in an on-street parking bay, and aquamation, a method of water cremation using potassium hydroxide. Have you heard of any of these new words? Do you think they should enter the Macquarie Dictionary?
Posted on 8 March 2022

The when of Easter

The origin of the word Easter is quite straightforward: Middle English ester, Old English ēastre, originally, name of goddess associated with the vernal equinox; distantly related to Latin aurōra dawn, Greek eōs; related to east But, for most of us, how the date of Easter is calculated each year is a mystery. Historically, because of the religious affiliation of most of the white, Anglo-Saxon Christian colonists and legislators in Australia, it was the Christian festivals that were deemed to merit gazettal as public holidays. Easter is one of those. Unlike the other one, Christmas, which always falls on 25 December, Easter is what is called a 'movable feast', its date calculated on the basis of the equinox and the state of the moon. There are a few moving parts involved in the determination of the date of Easter. Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the full moon which occurs on or next after the vernal equinox, which usually falls on 20 or 21 March. Oh, and 'vernal' means 'spring', so, in Australia, the vernal (spring) equinox falls in autumn. Sensibly, this is often called the autumnal or March equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, but not always, unfortunately.  So, Easter can occur on any Sunday between 22 March and 25 April. Simple!? But wait – these calculations are used to arrive at the date of Easter in Western Christianity. They are based on the Gregorian calendar. The Eastern Orthodox churches, such as the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, use the older Julian calendar to work out the date of Easter. Orthodox Easter falls between 4 April and 8 May. You can read more about calendars in our blog on the naming of the days of the month here. Thank goodness our diaries and calendars do the work for us!
Posted on 1 March 2022

More new words for March

We’re back again with five new words for the start of the new month! Our first word is hyperpop. It’s a term for a genre of music that heightens and exaggerates contemporary mainstream pop. Don’t you think all those P’s make it a pleasurable word to pronounce? On the other hand, we have the distinctly unpleasant images conjured up by brain worm. That’s a notional worm that infects the brain, negatively affecting one’s intellect, emotional state, etc. Of course, there are real parasitic worms that do this. This new notional sense is deployed metaphorically, primarily online and usually in the plural. For example, insulting someone’s intelligence by telling them they have brain worms, or suggesting your own negative thoughts are caused by brain worms. Cryptocurrencies and related technologies have been a significant source of new words entering the lexicon recently, and meme coin is one of the latest such examples. It refers to a cryptocurrency inspired by a meme or joke. The inaugural meme coin, Dogecoin, is based on the doge meme, starring a goofy-looking shiba inu. While we’re talking about coins, how about a newly-minted dating term? Hardballing is when you are clear with a date from the outset about the kind of relationship you’re after. It’s derived from the phrase ‘play hardball’, i.e. to use tough tactics in a negotiation, which itself comes from hardball, another name for baseball (in contrast to softball). An interesting sequence of semantic transfers, to be sure! Last of all, we have a new Aussie hypocorism to join recent additions sanny (sanitiser) and swampy (a swamp wallaby or a western swamp turtle): seccy, for a security guard. What do you think? Should these words be in the Macquarie Dictionary?