Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 24 August 2020
You're a galah, mate
Aussie Word of the Week
This week we are talking about galahs but not the endemic Australian cockatoo with its grey and pink plumage and cute chatter. Galah also means fool. As in Get out of it, you great bloody galah. Galahs are noted for erratically noisy behaviour, which seems pretty bizarre to humans (no doubt it all makes sense to them), hence a galah is a fool. And who could forget the classic mad as a gum tree full of galahs? Galah session, a time set aside for the people of isolated outback areas to converse with one another by radio, is another interesting none avian usage of the word. Picture farmers on a remote station chatting on radios provided for them by the Royal Flying Doctors Service, who helped develop outback communication. Aussies sure like turning the birds in their garden in to slang words. For more, check out our cockatoo blog as well (it's not about the bird either). 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 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 17 August 2020
The sound of the red rattler rolling around
Aussie Word of the Week
Look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track - Johnny Cash No, it's not the Orange Blossom Special, it's a rattler: any type of train noted for its loud rattling. From travelling our cities we know there are still plenty of rattlers roaming Australia's railroads! And if you're from New South Wales, you may remember the red rattlers, any of various trains with dark red carriages which rattled noisily when going at speed. To jump a rattler was to board a moving train and thus obtain a ride without buying a ticket – a practice common among swagmen during the Depression. Scale was a similar word. Swagmen would scale a train, bus, or ferry to avoid paying a fare, as in they scaled a rattler up to Newcastle. Thankfully we all have our tap on cards these days! While on the subject of trains we dug up an old piece of slang used by Sydney rail enthusiasts back in the early 2000s. Millennium bug was used to refer to CityRail's Millennium Train series, which was supposed to begin in 1999 but suffered technical problems. A clever usage of millennium bug, we think. 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 10 August 2020
Where is the thingo?
Aussie Word of the Week
Today we feature a classic piece of Aussie slang, a word for all situations, so flexible that it can bend into any lexicon, what was it again? Sorry, I've forgotten the name of the thingo... oh, that's it! Thingo is this week's Aussie Word of the Week. Thingo is versatile. A handy place holder for the forgetful and lazy amongst us. Want to change the channel? Ask someone to pass you the thingo and they will invariably know what you mean. Thingo is the Aussie way of saying thingummy or thingamyjiggey or thingamabob or even thingy. It has been in common use since the 1960s. Australians use thingo so much in day-to-day speech you probably don't even notice you're doing it! For other slang words, check out our Australian Word Map, where you can search words by region, or submit your own slang words via our Suggest a Word portal. 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 August 2020
Wrap up for our cold words
Today we have a blog that will send a shiver down your spine...brr (sorry). With winter on its way out we thought this was our last chance to share some of our favourite "cold" words. So pop a cold one and enjoy the list of our favourite chilly entries below. Let's start with cold shoulder (which we hope you aren't giving this blog) meaning to ignore someone. There is also a fashion equivalent, a cold shoulder dress, which is a dress with bare shoulders. Frozen mitt is the Aussie slang version of cold shoulder. Have you heard about Bundaberg snow? No it isn't a freak weather event, it is the ashes that fall after burning off a sugarcane field. How could we leave without mentioning the Cold War? Capitalised, Cold War refers specifically to the big stoush between the USA and the Soviet Union, whereas the uncapitalised cold war refers more broadly to an intense economic and political rivalry just short of military conflict. Cold turkey isn't just what you eat every day for a week after Christmas, but the sudden and complete withdrawal of narcotics and other addictive substances without warning. If you are reading this blog and getting cold feet then I recommend a hot foot soak. Are there any other "cold" words we've missed? Let us know in the comments.
Posted on 3 August 2020
Beware the quack
Aussie Word of the Week
At a time when we are all relying to the expertise of our doctors and nurses, we are on the lookout for quacks, and not the kind you hear from a duck. A quack is an ignorant or fraudulent pretender to medical skill. Think Dr Nick Riviera from The Simpsons. Similar words include mountebank, which more specifically refers to someone who sells quack medicines from a platform in public places, appealing to the audience by tricks and story storytelling (like a more sinister soapbox orator), and snake oil merchant, a confidence trickster who sells phoney medical treatments and other wares. Then there is nostrum, a word for a quack medicine. Another medical related slang term is happy juice, a nickname for any pain relieving medication that comes in liquid form. For other slang words, check out our Australian Word Map, where you can search words by region, or submit your own slang words via our Suggest a Word portal. 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 August 2020
Six new words to watch this winter
Welcome to our new words blog, where we share new and topical words, some of which were submitted by you via the suggest a word feature on our website. Been a long winter, right? Here are six new words to keep you warm while the chill lingers. Blood harmony might sound like the title of a vampire novel but it is in fact a type of musical harmony attained by members of the same family. That explains Hanson and AC/DC. Two new pandemic related words this month are coronacrisis, the global or local effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and covidiot: a person who doesn't abide by coronavirus restrictions. I'm sure we have all seen a few covidiots around. We also have two cuddly animal words to warm your heart. Roaching is when a greyhound sleeps on its back with its legs in the air, like a dead cockroach (trust us, it's much cuter than it sounds). Sky puppy is a colloquial name for a flying fox, aww. Finally, a big shout out to all murfers out there! That's mothers who love to surf. 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 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.
Posted on 27 July 2020
The Aussie crawl (Not that Aussie Crawl)
Aussie Word of the Week
Who fancies a winter dip down at the beach, or maybe at the local pool? The Aussie crawl is an Australian invented freestyle swimming stroke now used the world over. Inspired by the Aussie crawl we have trawled the seas of the Macquarie Dictionary for other swimming related slang. While swimming you'll want to avoid the blind mullet or brown trout, a tube of excrement floating in water, also referred to as a Bondi cigar. I don't fancy reeling in that fish! An aqua bog can refer either to a bogan who surfs or an excrement done while swimming in the ocean. You may be seeing a theme develop, so we will leave the meanings of code brown and pollywaffle to your imagination. Togs and cossie are two slang names for swimming costumes, the latter being more common in New South Wales and the usage of both words being quite contentious topics Australia-wide. Lastly, spanner water is a nickname for extremely cold water. That's it for this week. Now pull on your budgie smugglers and do a bombie into the spanner water, but don't forget to look out for the brown trout. 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 20 July 2020
Watch out for the cockatoo
Aussie Word of the Week
You hear them before you see them, those screeching flashes of white that swoop from your balcony to your bin. That's right, I'm talking about the infamous Australian cockatoo. As well as being one of Australia's loudest avian species, a cockatoo is also a slang name for a lookout who keeps watch during some illegal activity, such as another Aussie pastime, the two-up game. This name is in reference to behaviour of the sulphur-crested cockatoo, which is known to post sentries to noisily warn the flock of approaching danger. Hence why might you see a lonely cockatoo sitting at your window while its mates rain crumbs on your balcony from above. Meerkats also post sentries. In fact, if you visit a zoo you might see a meerkat sentry staring straight up in the air as if bird watching. Meerkats as much cuter than cockatoos but sadly not native to 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 13 July 2020
Enough bludging, back to work!
Aussie Word of the Week
Admit it, how many of you are bludging right now? Maybe you are reading the news or having a cheeky look at the weekend's football scores when you should be sending that draft email sitting in your inbox. To bludge is to waste time when you should be doing something. Americans refer to bludging as loafing. A classic piece of Australian slang, to bludge originally meant to live off the earnings of a prostitute. The term has since expanded to include a wider range of meanings. To be on the bludge is to be actively engaged in bludging, which can mean to be idle or doing nothing. As in, we spent Saturday just bludging around the house. (Who doesn't at this age?) A bludge can also refer to any job or class that requires next to no work. As in, this assignment is a bludge. Similar to the original meaning, to bludge off someone is to impose on them or live off their hospitality. Enough bludging, back to work! 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.