Posted on 1 August 2021

A bunch of interesting new words

Welcome to another edition of our monthly new words blog where we introduce some of the trendy new words our editorial team are tracking.  With several major cities around the country reliving lockdown in recent weeks, the Aussie public have again used their time at home to invent new pandemic-related slang. Do you have dick-nose? It isn't as rude as it sounds. Dick-nose means to wear a face mask so that the mouth is covered but the nose sticks out over the top. Perhaps you're stuck in locky d (that's lockdown) contemplating the problem of vaccine hesitancy, that is, a reluctance or delay in receiving a vaccine when one is available, often due to concern that a vaccine may be unsafe, ineffective or unnecessary. And of course the divisive term for the vaccine rollout in Australia, a strollout. Perhaps you chat with your family about these issues, conversing in your familect, that is, a language used within a family, usually comprising of the background language along with some altered or introduced vocabulary items. Maybe you are concerned about infobesity: information overload, a word that brings to mind the 2020 Word of the Year winner doomscrolling. The final new word on our radar is main character syndrome. Do you see the world as a book or a movie with yourself credited with the starring role? In other words, do you think the universe revolves around you? If so, you may suffer from main character syndrome. To all the supporting characters and extras out there, don't worry, we think you're all stars!  
Posted on 19 July 2021

Down the bunyip hole

Aussie Word of the Week

A bunyip is a mythical Australian beast of amphibious nature that inhabits rivers and deep, dark pools, retreating to underwater caverns known as bunyip holes. They are so shy and stealthy that one has never yet been caught. The word for this animal is from the Aboriginal language Wembawemba of Victoria and Southern NSW. The bunyip is not to be confused with the yowie, another mythical beast akin to a yeti or sasquatch. The word comes from the Aboriginal language Yuwaalarraay, from up Lightning Ridge way. Another fantastic beast is the triantiwontigongolope. A mythical insect beastie, the triantiwontigongolope is sometimes portrayed as a dreadfully dangerous creature like the bunyip in order to frighten children or naive city folk visiting the bush. As if Australia's many poisonous snakes and spiders aren't already enough to scare the wary traveller, C.J. Dennis introduced the triantiwontigongolope in a poem. Not to be confused with the triantelope, which is the common huntsman spider. If you're more afraid of the upper classes than mythical creatures be sure to read about the bunyip aristocracy. This derogatory name is given to Australians who consider themselves superior to others in wealth or status. The description was coined by Daniel Deniehy, a New South Wales MP in the 1800s in response to attempts to establish a colonial aristocracy.   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 30 June 2021

When should you use 'that' and 'which'?

It’s normally pretty clear whether to use that or which in a sentence. But there is one situation where you might find yourself wondering whether you’ve chosen correctly. Consider the humble restrictive clause. It’s placed after a noun and serves to specify or identify it in an important way. In the following examples, the restrictive clause is underlined: 
  • The students who sit behind me are absent. 
  • The play that my friend wrote premieres tomorrow.
  • The woman I’m dating is an engineer.
Contrast restrictive clauses with descriptive clauses. These are also used after nouns, but only to give optional information about the noun, which has already been identified. They are usually set off with commas.
  • Alex and Bronwyn, who sit behind me, are absent.
  • The play Midnight, which my friend wrote, premieres tomorrow.
  • Cecily, who I’m dating, is an engineer.
As you can see, if the noun has been properly identified, a sequence of words that could have formed a restrictive clause may instead be used as a descriptive clause. Restrictive (and descriptive) clauses often begin with a relative pronoun (such as that, which, who, whom or whose). In traditional grammar, it was thought that which shouldn’t be used to start restrictive clauses. So when you write a sentence like ‘The play which my friend wrote premieres tomorrow’ and feel a little shiver of uncertainty, you’re probably getting an icy stare from the ghosts of grammarians past. Their legacy lives on in some word processing software, where a cold blue squiggle might appear underneath each restrictive ‘which’. However, these days it’s perfectly fine for you to use that and which interchangeably at the start of your restrictive clauses. Lots of people already do it and you’re not at any risk of being misunderstood. You can use the first one that pops into your head. Or the first one which pops into your head.