Posted on 18 August 2020

New and old words we love to hate

The release of the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition should be a celebration of all of the new and wonderful words that have entered our lexicon in the past few years. However, while we take great delight in most, there are always a number which make us feel like dying a little inside. Whether it’s the awful  sound of the word, its construction, its meaning, or even the dismal fact that it exists at all, its inclusion in the Macquarie is based upon an established usage within Australian English. Deepfakes and incels fill me with terror (both contenders for the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year in 2018). Underboobs, twitterature and sneaters also make me worry about our future. Zoats are definitely something I won’t be eating anytime soon. Spoopy sounds plain ridiculous but does guarantee a laugh if you find the right video so I’ll give this one a pass. Talking about words we dislike always acts as a catalyst for readers to voice their objections to their pet hates. In a world in which every single person or thing seems to be described as unique, I feel quite giddy when actually hearing it used simply to mean "of which there is only one". Don’t worry, the use of literally (see here for other words we hate...) and versing still generate the most strident of our emails.  And whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has not only seen the creation of numerous new terms but also a sharp increase in usage of existing words and phrases, such as unprecedented, the new normal and PPE (personal protective equipment). But just how many times can something be unprecedented and become the new normal? Some of the new COVID-19 terms are being used at such high frequency that they feel like they have been part of our language forever, such as social distancing, iso and flatten the curve. I’d much rather avoid the awkward (and not socially-distanced) elbow bump, settle in with a quarantini and cook up some fakeaway. What established and emerging words do you hate? We’d love to know.
Posted on 28 July 2020

Selected new words from award-winning author Kim Scott

Each new edition of the Macquarie Dictionary features a foreword written by an esteemed Australian writer. For the Eighth Edition, we were honoured to welcome Kim Scott, author Taboo and the Miles Franklin Award winning That Deadman Dance. The words below represent a selection of those that stood out for Kim, which in turn represent just a fraction of the 3500 new entries included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition. Kim’s foreword focuses on some of the Indigenous words included in the Eighth Edition. Kim notes that many of these words would once have been labelled simply as 'Aboriginal' but have since been updated with more understanding of their place within Indigenous culture and language groups. Take for example Ngangkari, from the Pitjantjatjara language, one of many Indigenous words included in the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition.  ngangkari noun an Indigenous practitioner of bush medicine; healer. Kim Scott’s other word selections are often humorous or food related. Each of the six words below reflects changes to the way Australian English is used by the public. To read the rest, order your copy of the Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition and read the foreword for yourself.  hair doughnut noun a doughnut-shaped sponge or similar material used as the support for a doughnut bun or similar updo. rat tamer noun Colloquial a psychologist or psychiatrist. sadfishing noun Colloquial the practice adopted by some people, especially on social media, of exaggerating claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy. schnitty noun Colloquial a schnitzel, especially a chicken schnitzel. stepmonster noun Colloquial (humorous) (sometimes derogatory) a stepmother. zoodle noun a spiralised strand of zucchini, sometimes used as a substitute for pasta.
Posted on 28 July 2020

Data - singular or plural?

A recent poll in the UK found that 74% of respondents treat the word ‘data’ as a singular collective nouns, compared to 14% that treat it as plural. The results of this poll were published on Twitter and sparked some mild outrage about the degradation of the English language. The word data comes to us from classical Latin as a count noun, where data is the plural form used to refer to stats or other information collected for analysis or reference, and datum the singular form to refer to a specific stat or piece of information.  These data show that on their assumptions, our debt to national income ratio rises from one-third to one-half–HERALD, 1990 It's dynamic: every time a datum changes, so changes the intelligence senior managers see–THE AUSTRALIAN, 1999 Our research into the usage of this humble word in our more modern times has found that the connection between data the plural and datum the singular has been almost completely broken. While datum survives in such compounds as datum point, it does not have the frequency of use that data has. Data is regularly used as a singular collective noun* in contexts like the data has proved difficult to process.  Google Trends shows us an overall decline in usage of datum since 2004, which is as far back as Trends can go. And for a bit of fun, we also ran our own informal office poll. There was a clear and definite winner with 100% of the votes going to…. data as a singular mass noun. Some language ‘purists’ may see this move towards data as a singular to be a blight on our language and thus petition for ‘correct usage’ to be upheld. It is not the dictionary’s role, however, to say what is correct or incorrect, but to record these changes as they happen. So, while some people may continue to be staunchly resistant to this change, I’m afraid it is already a losing battle. The data IS clear: language is ever evolving and poor datum has been falling out of fashion for some time. *Visit the Grammar Guide for more information about mass nouns, count nouns and collective nouns.