Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 15 March 2021
Don't stir the pot, stir the possum!
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are looking at provocative slang words. Do you have a mate who likes to stir the possum? That is, creates a disturbance or uproar? Stir the possum has been Aussie slang since the 1900s, so named because a sleeping possum does not take well to being stirred up. Stir the possum can also mean to instigate a debate on a controversial topic, especially in the public arena. Similar phrases include stir up, stir the hornet's nest and a personal favourite shit-stir. Sounds gross, right? The latter more specifically means to make trouble; to provoke or tease – especially just for amusement or simply for the sake of it. Similarly, a troll is someone who, protected by online anonymity, posts messages in a discussion forum, chat room, etc., which are designed to disrupt the normal flow of communication by being inflammatory or puzzling You might say that the whole world is now made up of trolls trying to stir the possum, but that's the cynical view. 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 2021
Replacement swear words
Bloody oath! Aussies love swearing, just ask Cate Blanchett. But there are times when swearing isn’t appropriate, like when your granny comes to visit. Don’t fret. If you need to let off some steam, or if your lingo consists mostly of language that would make your granny blush, then the Macquarie Dictionary has got you covered with these replacement swear words. Let’s start with holy... – an entire genre of replacement swear words. The list includes classics like holy cow, holy mackerel and holy moly. Other excellent additions to the genre include holy Moses – possibly the only literal entry to the list – holy smokes, and of course holy guacamole. Holy snapping duckshit is a no-no! Really, you can put just about any word after holy to create a replacement swear word. But not everything is so sacred. Australians also borrow replacement swear words from similar sounding words. Fudge and sugar are common replacements just as smarmy and sweet as the real thing. Get stuffed you galah. Interpretation – go away you empty-headed fool. Sorry, just testing out some replacement insults, which could probably be an entire blog unto itself. If you’re on the receiving end of a rough tongue, you might exclaim jeepers or blimey! These are both exclamations of surprise that will save you from resorting to stronger language. I can hear you all telling me to shut the front door. To that, I say . See, emojis can be replacement swears too.
Posted on 8 March 2021
Flat out like a lizard drinking
Aussie Word of the Week
Phew. Busy, busy, busy. I am flat out like a lizard drinking at the Macquarie office this week. This scaly phrase is a way of saying that we are working as hard or as fast as possible. Australian English has some great ways of saying you are working hard. Graft simply means hard work. Aussie slang since the 1890s, graft is also a verb: we'd been grafting all day long. Hence, grafter, a hard worker. Hard graft sits one level up from graft. Australians have been rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the hard graft since the 1870s. Yakka or hard yakka is an iconic Aussie phrase. Meaning hard work, especially manual labour, yakka has been part of Aussie slang since at least the 1880s. Yakka comes from the Aboriginal language Yagara, from the Brisbane region. Yakka is commonly heard in the phrase all yack and no yakka, used to describe someone who's always talking about what they're going to do instead of doing it. In contrast to all these hard working words, to bash the spine is to sleep. This great Aussie layabout slang has helped the lazy among us make sleep sound like hard work since the 1940s. 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 2021
Five new words being considered for the Macquarie Dictionary
Welcome to March. Summer is slipping away. Soon it will just be a memory of sunburn on your skin after a long day at the beach. If you dread short days and chilly weather, console yourself with these six new words. Ah, the sizzle of bacon on the frying pan. If you love bacon you might describe yourself as a baconeer: a bacon aficionado. Maybe you take your plate of bacon to your grandmillenial style living room. That is, a style of home decorating by millennials that is inspired by their grandparents decorating style. As far as jobs go, bloodbiker sound like an interesting career choice. Not quite as cyberpunk as it sounds, but still as impressive, a bloodbiker is a motorcycle rider who transports blood between hospitals. Let me e-troduce you to my friend. To e-troduce is to introduce two people who haven't met over email. Our final new word is kangaroo word. We thought this was cute and clever. A kangaroo word is a word that contains all the letters of one of its synonyms (known as a 'joey word') For example, masculine contains all the letters for 'male.' 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 1 March 2021
All hail the bin chicken
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are paying homage to a national icon. The bin chicken graces towns and cities across the land. When rubbish is strewn across the footpath who is there to clean up the mess? The bin chicken, of course. If you're unfamiliar with the name, the bin chicken is none other than the Australian white ibis, so named from its habit of rummaging in garbage bins for food. A habit which also earned them the less common nicknames dump chook and tip turkey. The ibis has a white body, black secondary feathers and a bald black head and bill. They are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, the Maluku and nearby islands. Once rare in urban areas, they have been migrating to urban areas along the east coast of Australia since the 1970s. The bin chicken has pecked and scavenged its way into Australian culture. You'll find them celebrated in graffiti murals and emblazoned in hats and other merchandise. Dare we say it the bin chicken is competing with the kangaroo for the position of most iconic Australian animal. To read more about our beloved Aussie fauna, check out our fawning over Aussie fauna 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 22 February 2021
Who lives in a house like this? Queensland style
Aussie Word of the Week
In this week's blog we are looking at architecture, to be precise, the architecture of Queensland. Queenslander isn't just a loud chant you hear at the football, it's also a highset weatherboard house of the type commonly found in, you guessed it, Queensland. It's hot up north. What better design for your house than to set it on stilts to let the air flow through your property while simultaneously staying above potential floodwater in a state known for cyclones and epic storms? That's right, there isn't one but there are variations on the theme. An Ashgrovian is a multi-gabled, bungalow-style variation of the Queenslander house, that was popular in the period between the two World Wars. Still in Queensland, a Queen Street bushie is a derogatory name for someone who owns a country property, often, formerly, for tax loss purposes, but who lives and works in Brisbane. The other states have variations on this theme. The Victorian equivalent is a Collins Street cocky, while in New South Wales the name is Pitt Street farmer. Over in Western Australia they are called St Georges Terrace Cockies. 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 February 2021
"More Than Words: The Making of the Macquarie Dictionary"
The idea for a dictionary of Australian English was conceived in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1981 that the first edition of the Macquarie Dictionary was published. More Than Words tells the story of how the dictionary was brought to life during this period – from identifying the need for a genuinely Australian dictionary to the long road towards publication – and explores how the dictionary has evolved over the years since then. The publication of the Macquarie Dictionary signalled the end of the huge struggle to claim validity and dignity for Australian speech, words and expressions, and patterns of language. Written by Pat Manser, who worked as a research editor for the first Macquarie Dictionary, More Than Words recounts the story behind the dictionary that gave a full account of Australian English as it was heard and written in the speech of labourers, the jargon of merchants, swearwords, Australianisms, as well as the basic core of English vocabulary.
Posted on 15 February 2021
Hop in, we're going to chuck a lap
Aussie Word of the Week
Hop in. This week we are chucking a lap down the main street of Macquarie Town. To chuck a lap is to drive around the block as a form of entertainment. The hoons spent Saturday night chucking laps. Since this is nearly always done off the main street it is also called chucking a mainy. In Whyalla, a hoon around the beach is chucking a beachie. On the way, they might even incorporate a doughnut. Australians like to chuck things. A hoon that gets pulled over by the cops while chucking a lap might chuck a micky. That is, throw a tantrum. There is a veritable plethora of putdowns on this same theme meant to belittle the person who has lost their temper. These include: chuck a mental, chuck a nana, chuck a wobbly and many more. Perhaps the most famous instance of all in Australian English is chuck a U-ey. While everyone says it, no-one is really sure how to spell this great Aussie word. Other efforts have been u-ie, uee, and even youee. Whatever way you spell it, just be sure to follow the road rules. 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 8 February 2021
I'll have the schnitty, please
Aussie Word of the Week
In this week's Word of the Week, I am ordering Australia's favourite pub meal. The schnitty, the slang name for the legendary chicken schnitzel, comes with a generous side of chips and a forest of salad. Just thinking of that butterflied chicken breast makes me want to step away for an early lunch. Aussies regularly order from a menu of slang foods. The BLT, a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich, is a lunchtime favourite. You might throw in some avo, or avocado, with that for an extra treat. After a sandwich there is nothing like sitting down with a cuppa and a choccy biccy. I think those are self-explanatory. Of course, I couldn't go on without mentioning the souped up cousin of the schnitty: the famous chicken parmigiana, known affectionately as the parmi. If you're feeling extra hungry, check out our blog, Parma, parmi or parmo. Which one is correct? When it comes to drinks we've got you covered too. By the time Friday rolls around you might be ready for some bubbles, or a stubby, or a tinnie or maybe even a slab. Those are sparkling wine, a small bottle of beer, a tin of beer and 24 cans of beer respectively. So, what'll it be? 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 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 1 February 2021
New words to watch this month
A new month means new words. Check out our handful of new words to hold on to in February. Would you describe 2020 as a dumpster fire? We would. That's why dumpster fire, any utterly disastrous situation, heads up our eclectic list. There were plenty of opportunities for pic facs last year. That is, a photo opportunity for media at a community event, usually with politicians. Did you party from Christmas and New Year right through to the end of January? If so, your headache might inspire you to become sober curious: the exploration of a life without alcohol. Did the thought of giving up drink hit you in the feels? Those are also known as deep emotional feelings. Finally, as we spin our globes and point our fingers to the destinations we'll visit when the borders lift, we have been tracking the development of vaccine passports, a system by which vaccinated travellers entering a country can skip mandatory quarantine if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. 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 1 February 2021
What a rort.
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are investigating a rort, that is, a trick, lurk, or underhanded scheme: a confidence trick. We have looked at this before through the eyes of then Editor, Sue Butler. As a verb, rort means to swindle or dupe. Part of Aussie slang since at least the 1910s, rort is a backformation from rorter. It is now commonly used in reference to election rigging, embezzlement, and other dodgy practices indulged in by the nation's movers and shakers. In this sense, the word is hardly slang any more but carries serious implications for anyone who finds their face plastered on the front page of a newspaper with rort written above their heads. A rort is all about manipulating the system to gain a wrongful advantage. Hence a racehorse whose form has been kept secret is known as a rort horse, or a smokie. Rort can also be used to describe a job that's a bit of a bludge, as in nice rort you're on here. We also discovered an outdated definition of rort from across the Tasman Sea. Yes, this is the Aussie Word of the Week but indulge us for a moment. In NZ, rort has formerly referred to sexual intercourse. We can't help but laugh that while the Kiwis are having a fantastic time rorting, Aussies are having less fun getting rorted. 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.