Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 30 March 2020
A zambuck is an old term for an ambo
Aussie Word of the Week
Sirens blaring in the distance. Here come the zambucks! An old slang term for a St John's ambulance officer, the term zambuck originated in the 1910s. The name arose from the proprietary name of an antiseptic ointment commonly used by paramedics at the time. Our slang has been updated since the 1910s. Ambo is the most likely phrase you will hear these days. It describes either the ambulance officer or the vehicle itself. Meat wagon is also a term that refers to ambulances, though hopefully you won't have to hear that one too often. You might see an ambulance chaser, a chiefly US name given to lawyers who seek out clients who have been involved in accidents, running alongside an emergency vehicle. Once the ambulance gets you to your destination you might be greeted by a quack, not the avian variety but rather, a doctor. 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 25 March 2020
Macquarie grammar clinic: then and than
Then and than are commonly confused and it’s no wonder why – they sound very similar, are spelt very similarly and both come from the Old English roots. In fact, up until about the 17th century, there was only a single spelling for both senses! So it’s no wonder these words can often get mixed up. Thankfully, modern English has evolved to use two different spellings -- then and than – which have two very different functions. Then largely functions as an adverb or adjective to talk about time and the order of events. prices were lower then he stopped, and then began again the then prime minister It is also used common phrases such as till then, but then, then again, now and then. Than is a conjunction or preposition – that is, it is a connecting word – used to compare things: a better car than mine to sing more sweetly than a bird she is taller than me we have more than enough Than also appears in common phrases: rather than / other than more than meets the eye larger than life a fate worse than death So, next time you need to select the correct word, rather than simply hoping for the best, think about the function of the word in the sentence, then add it in! For more help with the different parts of speech check out the Macquarie grammar guide
Posted on 23 March 2020
Aussie slang terms for 'bad luck'
Aussie Word of the Week
Lost the car keys? Dropped your lunch? Missed your bus by seconds? You might be said to be on a bad trot. This Aussie slang term for a run of bad luck originated in the 1940s. I don't mean to put the mocker on but we've got even more slang terms for bad luck below. Mozz is a shortened version of mocker. You can mozz someone or put the mozz on to hex or wish them bad luck. A run of outs is a succession of bad luck, particularly in gambling from where the phrase originated in the 1930s. Whammy, as in double, or even triple whammy, means a surprising and unexpected event, often unfortunate, that happens in two or more stages. The phrase originated in the US but is also commonly used in Australia. Finally, you might encounter luck so bad that you wouldn't read about it! We hope you don't luck out before the next Word of the Week. 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 19 March 2020
COVID-19 or the coronavirus?
The Macquarie Dictionary is constantly being reviewed and updated to make sure the words and definitions being offered are the most relevant possible. We appreciate any feedback on posts or suggestions of new words (we love them in fact). We have had a number of queries about COVID-19 and other words to describe reactions and measures following the global pandemic. An entry for COVID-19 will be appearing online in our next update along with its established variant forms coronavirus, Wuhan coronavirus and 2019-nCov. There is always fluidity with new terms but what we are seeing becoming established in Australian English is the form coronavirus over the coronavirus and the capitalised COVID-19 rather than Covid-19. As most of us are now aware thanks to the 24/7 news cycle focused almost entirely on COVID-19, a coronavirus is not a new development. This word means "an RNA virus affecting mammals, the cause of a variety of illnesses in humans, including the common cold." As a word, COVID-19 exists to differentiate it from other coronaviruses. Broken into parts, the word means CO(RONA)VI(RUS) + D(ISEASE) + (20)19 (referring to the year it was first reported). There are other terms which have also come into our environment such as social distancing, P2 mask, etc., which will also be reflected in our update. But if you find any others, please let us know. We hope everyone stays safe as many people start to work from home and self-isolate.
Posted on 18 March 2020
They're there. We've got you covered for this common grammar mistake
Three of the most commonly confused words are there, their and they’re – and it’s no wonder because they all sound exactly the same when we say them aloud. Words that sound the same but have different meanings and/or spellings are known as homophones. Homophones are one of the trickiest areas of spelling, that even autocorrect can get wrong! There can be used a lot of different ways, but most commonly it’s used as an adverb or pronoun to indicate a particular place (The book is up there on the shelf; He comes from there too) or a point in action (I have painted up to there). There can be used more figuratively in colloquial phrases such as so there!, there you go, there you are, etc. Their is used to show possession. Their is one of the possessive adjectives – along with other words like my, our, her, his – which are used to indicate that something belongs to someone, e.g. Their car is green. Their becomes theirs when it is used as a possessive pronoun e.g. The green car is theirs. Remember! Pronouns do not use an apostrophe to show possession (mine, ours, hers, his, theirs), but nouns do (Sandy’s car is green). They’re is a contraction of ‘they are’. Contractions reduce two words to a single one in which an apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been removed. Here are some hints for when you’re unsure about which of these homophones to use…
- Is it there? Think about whether you’re talking about the location or place of a person, object, or task.
- Is it their? Try replacing the word with the possessive form of a noun, such as family’s
- Is it they’re? Try expanding it to the two words ‘they’ + ‘are’ to see if that still makes sense.
Posted on 16 March 2020
Your shout for St Patrick's day
Aussie Word of the Week
We have previously explored the influence of Irish words and slang on Australian English. In honour of St Patrick's Day, we are exploring some other Irish-related words and phrases, the most applicable of which, on a day when people dressed in green are filling up pubs, is your shout. A round of drinks is an Australian tradition, when it's your shout, you need to pony up and head to the bar. A vital part of Australian language, your shout may have Irish origins. There are a few other unusual and seldom heard slang phrases related to the Irish. Though outdated, they indicate that the Irish have not always been viewed favourably in Australia. To get your Irish up mean to become angry or enraged. Whereas saying, that was pretty Irish hints that you have acted illogically or stupidly. You might describe someone as Irish as Paddy's pigs, meaning very Irish and next time you are dusting the house, remember that Irish curtains are a slang term for cobwebs. 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 March 2020
Off for an al desko
Aussie Word of the Week
The clock ticks slowly towards lunchtime. Your stomach rumbles, you can't wait to get stuck into last night's leftovers, but your workload seems to be growing. You might need to tell your work buddies that you will be eating lunch al desko. Al desko is a nice piece of Aussie slang that riffs on the term alfresco, meaning 'in the open air' and commonly used in reference to dining. The al desko has become so commonplace that people are questioning the etiquette of eating at your desk. Offices are full of slang and jargon, some of which jars and some of which is so commonplace we hardly notice anymore. One example is touch base, meaning to make contact with someone. You likely find yourself typing this in your emails as a kind of introduction or tentative hello. Get all your ducks in a row is another example of workplace jargon. Unfortunately, this does not mean to go and visit your local pond to feed the ducks but is in fact a colloquial way of saying you are going to get organised. Comment below if you have any other office slang we haven't heard before. Now, I'm off for an al desko... 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 6 March 2020
What’s the difference between many, much and a lot?
The word many is generally used as an adjective to describe something that constitutes a large number, or when something is relatively numerous. The reference to ‘number’ here is important, as many is used with count nouns. Count nouns refer to objects that could feasibly be counted, such as: cats, bananas, trees, people, paintings, etc. For example: How many cats do you have? There are many paintings in the museum. Conversely, the word much is used with mass nouns (also referred to as non-count nouns), that is, nouns referring to an object that is thought of as existing in bulk and/or would not usually be counted as individual items, such as: butter, money, water, etc. For example: How much money do you earn? (Compare to: How many coins do you have?) I didn’t put much butter on the toast. Interestingly, and somewhat confusingly, mass nouns can sometimes be used to refer to varieties of the object they refer to and then they can be counted, but in that case they cease to be mass nouns and become count nouns. There are two New Zealand butters coming onto the market. More often, however, a phrase like ‘kinds of’ or ‘types of’ is inserted. There are two kinds of New Zealand butter coming onto the market. Much is a bit more versatile, and can be used as an adjective to mean in great quantity, amount, measure or degree (much work); as a noun meaning a great quantity or amount (much of this is true); or an adverb meaning greatly or far (much better, much too fast). The phrase a lot of also means to a considerable degree or a great deal of, and can be used with both count and mass nouns. For example: They have a lot of cats. I like toast with a lot of butter. We also see ‘lot’ often pluralised as ‘lots’, though this is still largely considered to be the colloquial form. For example: They have lots of cats. I like toast with lots of butter. So there you have it, the differences between many, much and a lot of. Next up on this front, we’ll get into a lot and alot...
Posted on 2 March 2020
Beware the flying cane toad
Aussie Word of the Week
Australia is home to hundreds of bird species. Their squawks, squeaks and cries fill our landscapes. Introduced to Australia in the 1860s, the Indian myna is one such bird you might see around your suburb or if you are unlucky, you might see them flying around your yard, trying to steal your dog's food. Not to be confused with the native noisy miner, the common Indian myna has become so notorious among Australia's birds that it has gained the nickname flying cane toad. In reality, this bird is nowhere near as bad a pest as a cane toad but they still make a nuisance of themselves. Local community groups across the east coast are involved in efforts to trap and reduce the impact of this invasive species. Australia has a long, storied history of introducing non-native animals species, often with disastrous consequences. Other introduced species include camels, foxes and perhaps the deadliest of all, feral cats. 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 March 2020
Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia longlisted for ABIA Illustrated Book of the Year 2020
Last year, we published the second edition of the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia. We are honoured that this book has made the longlist for the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) 2020. It has been longlisted under Illustrated Book of the Year 2020. From the ABIA website: The ABIAs showcase the collaborative efforts of publishers, editors, illustrators, marketers, designers, and authors in bringing quality books to Australia and abroad. It’s also a great opportunity to celebrate what we’ve done as an industry — and the joys of bringing books into the world. The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia is a collabroative publication of the Australian National University, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Macquarie Dictionary. Combining the magic of maps with the latest data from the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Atlas allows us to explore a visual history of Indigenous Australia. The shortlist for the ABIAs 2020 will be announced on 9 April 2020. Good luck to all the nominees.
Posted on 1 March 2020
Seven new words for March
New month, new words. Check out the seven new words we have curated for you below. It's quite an eclectic mix. Educrat is a name for a bureaucrat in the education sector. Lollipop lips is the name given to a make-up trend that imitates the look of having just eaten a lollipop by blurring the edges of your lipstick. How many of you are monotasking right now? That means focusing on doing one task at a time instead of multitasking. Fancy a cold treat? Why not try nice cream, an ice cream alternative made from blended bananas. A nibling is a name for a niece or nephew. We've seen this crop up a little, but way back in 2014, we had niefling submitted, so the word seems to be changing. Seened means that someone else has seen a message on social media but not replied while stricting is an aesthetically pleasing way of shelving your books, tight to the edges of the bookcase, which might give you problems pulling them out to read! Let us know if you have any other suggestions. We are always happy to hear new words, no matter how big or small a usage they may have. Be sure to vote for some of these when we post them on our Instagram stories. See other words suggested to the Macquarie Dictionary here.
Posted on 26 February 2020
If words could kill
If you're a fan of horror, fantasy or just plain crime novels, you've probably come across some interesting (and hypothetical) ways to kill people. Speaking entirely figuratively, we've had a look at some of the more obscure and specific words in the Australian English language to do with killing someone. To start with, there are the generic terms for killing, such as murder, slaughter, eliminate and execute. These can be done in a variety of different ways, so their definitions are quite similar. You can also include massacre and butcher in this list of standard terms for general murder. But from here, it's gets a little more interesting – from a lexicographical perspective. One which arguably belongs with the aforementioned group, but which in some ways stands alone is the word assassinate. Meaning 'to kill by sudden or secret, premeditated assault, especially for political or religious motives', while the means of the murder can vary, the fact that it is done suddenly or secretly sets this particular term apart. On the other hand, take, for example, the oft-cited word defenestrate, which means 'to throw (a person) out of a window'. This is not to say that death would definitely occur which is why death by defenestration is more widely known, but it is an interesting and very particular definition (and a favourite word in our podcast on internet slang). A couple of words that go together thematically if not etymologically are excoriate (from Latin) and dismember (from Middle English). Both words have definitions that revolve around the removal or separation of body parts, ending in death. To excoriate is to 'strip off or remove the skin from', and to dismember is to 'divide limb from limb'. Both visceral, fascinating expressions. And then we have some more elemental forms of death. International news coverage brings with it information on these kinds of deaths, usually as a form of death penalty where it is part of the law of the nation. For example, the electric chair is a tool used to electrocute a person to death. And while hanging is the means to the end, the ultimate cause of death might be suffocation, strangulation (and in some rare and obscure cases, to burke, which is 'to murder, as by suffocation, so as to leave no or few marks of violence.' So named for W Burke, hanged at Edinburgh in 1829 for murders of this kind). Other methods used in these situations are to shoot (with a gun) or stone a person to death. And finally, something which stands alone is immolation. While the definition of this word is 'to kill as a sacrificial victim; offer in sacrifice', due to widespread reports of people self-immolating by setting themselves on fire, occasionally, the fiery aspect of this can get confused with the definition of the word. But, like assassinate, the method of murder can vary, but the motive must stay the same. We are tentatively curious about what other words like these may be out there, and aware that in theory, you could put 'death by' in front of any word to create a new and horrifying meaning, such as death by spoon, or death by platypus, or some such.