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Posted on 18 August 2021

All about portmanteaus

What could be more fun than combining two words to create a brand new word? Almost nothing. That’s why the Macquarie Dictionary employs a dedicated team of word chefs who spend all day cooking up new portmanteaus. Well, not quite but we do like to write about them.  A portmanteau word is made by blending two other words. Brunch, perhaps the most famous portmanteau, is a combination of breakfast and lunch, but is now considered a meal all on it’s own, rather than a sneaky snack between other meals. Other well known portmanteaus include: spork (spoon + fork), cosplay (costume + play), and sitcom ( situation + comedy).  Portmanteaus have a way of capturing the imagination. Done right, they can roll off the tongue and into the national lexicon. Done badly and they can sound like the kind of awful pun that attracts groans from everyone in the room. Brunch, yes. Linner (you can probably guess at what time of day this meal occurs), no thanks.  As such, plenty of clever portmanteau words have featured in the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year. The 2020 People’s Choice Covid word of the year was covidiot, a blend of COVID-19 and idiot.  The 2019 Word of the Year list featured anecdata, a blend of anecdotal and data, alongside hangxiety, a dangerous combo consisting of hangover and anxiety.  How could we not mention the infamous and seemingly forgotten framily, winner of the 2017 People’s Choice Word of the Year. Framily, a blend of friend and family, has rarely been heard since.  Some portmanteaus are literal in their meaning. Examples include waterfall: water that falls, and pancake, literally a thin flat cake cooked in a frying pan. So you can see that people really do love combining words to make new words. If you would like to read more about portmanteaus check out our favourite combos from the Australian Writers’ Centre in 2016. If you love animals and words we’ve got the blog for you with our Ligers and tigons and grolar bears!
Posted on 4 February 2021

The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade winner is...

After a truly bumper year for new words, and with the ticking over of a new decade, the Macquarie team decided that the time was perfect for thinking about a Word of the Decade. Taking the winners of Word of the Year for the past ten years, we asked all of Australia to vote for the words which resonated most as the first official Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade.  After a week of voting from the shortlist, we would like to announce fake news as the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade!   After a record-breaking number of votes, fake news beat out mansplain by the thinnest of margins, with First World problem finishing a close third. The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Decade: fake news The Committee’s Choice for 2016, fake news is Macquarie’s Word of the Decade. While we think of fake news as a coinage of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, it was around before then. However, it became emblematic of that campaign and the four years that followed it. It became part of our lives so quickly and was so overwhelming that school courses had to be developed to teach children strategies for detecting fake news. Since 2016, fake news has gained a second definition in the Macquarie, as a term used to refer to information that is viewed as being opposed or detrimental to someone’s own position – whether it is factual or not. Words are powerful and the ease with which we see this term being thrown around to instantly rob something of its credibility can be very damaging.  It looks like it’s a term that’s here to stay. Runner-up: mansplain Right up until the close of voting, mansplain was jostling with fake news for the top gong. It was the Committee’s Choice in 2014, and was very contentious at the time. Regarded as sexist by many men, it was applauded by women as a simple description of a phenomenon long suffered by females, and it’s obviously still resonating. The word is a clever coinage, one of a number of humorous constructions such as mancation, manterrupt and, of course, manspread, another neat word to describe something far from neat. Of course there are many who do not find these remotely clever or humorous, and so the controversy lives on. Runner-up: First World problem First World problem was the People's Choice vote in the 2012 Word of the Year. This has proved to be a much sounder choice than the Committee’s winner that year – phantom vibration syndrome (what?).  Like mansplain, First World problem succinctly sums up a sprawling concept, and makes the surrounding conversation easier and clearer. It’s often used humorously, but, even so, carries an acknowledgement of those far less fortunate. The fact that it scored one of the highest numbers of votes for Word of the Decade indicates that the term and the concept are still relevant. THE BOTTOM LINE They were the top three choices for Word of the Decade. So which were at the other end – the least popular words? share plate Voted in as the People’s Choice in 2014, share plate came a very definite last in the ballot for Word of the Decade. Perhaps the thought of such a thing in the time of COVID sounded such loud alarms and warnings that voters were scared off. phantom vibration syndrome While we still experience the phenomenon of feeling our phones vibrating in our pockets or bags when they aren’t, this name for it really never took off. The Committee chose it as the winner in 2012, but it does seem a little cumbersome. In retrospect, the runner-up crowdfunding would have been a better bet. framily People’s Choice 2017. This one could have been a star – a portmanteau which very neatly describes that group of friends who are so close they could be family. But, while it showed promise early on, it basically failed to launch.
Posted on 2 December 2019

Macquarie shortlist of words of the year | Colloquial

There are a fifteen categories in the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year longlist (you can check the full list out here). Each of these categories is comprised of five words, that's a lot of words to bulk up your vocabulary! The list is then whittled down to just fifteen words that you can choose from in the People's Choice Word of the Year 2019. Before you vote, take a look at the five words that made it through our Comittee's rigorous selection process.  Colloquialisms provide a rich source of new and interesting words. These words are often slang words originating from popular culture that become ubiquitous throughout the year, such as the 2017 People's Choice winner framily. One of the contenders on this year's list is JOMO, or joy at missing out, the opposite of the dreaded FOMO or fear of missing out. Hangxiety is another word on the list. A portmanteau of hangover and anxiety, you can imagine the sort of feeling that might accompany this word!  JOMO noun Colloquial a peaceful and appreciative state of mind induced by choosing not to participate in some activity. [j(oyo(fm(issingo(ut), modelled on FOMO] In 2019 we want to ditch the concept of FOMO – fear of missing out. FOMO is JOMO’s evil twin. It makes us do things purely because we feel like we might miss out on something good if we don’t. But you know what? All those yeses meant I missed out on something altogether more important: time for myself. And it turns out I’m not the only one transitioning from an anxious obsession with FOMO into a love of JOMO.  hangxiety noun Colloquial (humorous) a feeling of anxiousness, worry, guilt, etc., experienced the morning after excessive consumption of alcohol. [blend of HANGOVER and ANXIETY] When you do have hangxiety, what do you do to get you through those hours of hell? Beyond Blue forum Don't be that person at the party. You know the one we're talking about. Have fun, with no regrets or hangxiety the next day.   The remaining three words that make up the colloquial category for the Word of the Year are edgelord, thicc and silver tsunami. You can find the definitions for these words as well as our longlist on our Word of the Year page. The shortlisted word from this category for 2019 is of course, thicc. This word was also selected by our Committee as one of our three Honourable Mentions, with the illustrious company of eco-anxiety and ngangkari. You can find more information on the shortlist and vote here.
Posted on 1 December 2019

Why the Word of the Year is made up of two words

For the past five years, our Word of the Year has consisted of two words. In 2015, the word was captain's call. In 2016, it was fake news. In 2017, the controversial milkshake duck took out the top spot. And in 2018, we had Me Too as the Word of the Year. And now, for 2019, the Word of the Year is cancel culture. And so once again we embark on the journey to explain what we, as a dictionary, mean when we refer to something as a word. The English language has the great capacity to create new words and new meanings from existing words. One of the more common ways we form new words in English is by putting together two (or more!) existing words to form a new word with a new meaning. This is technically known as a lexical item or lexical unit. Essentially, a 'word' is the item that you look up in the dictionary to find the meaning. Sometimes one of these new creations ends up as a blended word, known as a portmanteau. For example anecdata [anecdote + data], healthwashing [health + whitewash], or incel [involuntary + celibate]. Sometimes new words are created by the addition of affixes, as in deplatform or destock. And sometimes two whole words are smashed together as in tweetstorm or earthship.   Or, somewhat less dramatically, words are simply placed next to each other, as in Me Too, flight shaming and cancel culture. Find out about these words as part of Word of the Year 2019. In other instances a hyphen may be used to keep things a little cleaner, as in eco-anxiety, or words may be borrowed from another language, like ngangkari and mukbang (which is also a portmanteau!). And of course there are also backformations. Language is a moveable feast. The forms of words can change over time, inserting or removing hyphens and spaces, dropping letters, fusing into a single unit. Take for example electronic mail which then became e-mail and is now most frequently used as email. So when confronted with a word that is made up of two words, like cancel culture, this is counted as a new lexical item which needs a new entry in the dictionary. Because using our existing understanding of cancel  – to decide not to proceed with – and of culture –  a particular state or stage of civilisation, as in the case of a certain nation or period – doesn't really give us the essence of what this new term actually means. And now it's time for you to have your say in the People’s Choice and vote for your favourite lexical item/word.