Macquarie Dictionary Blog
Posted on 6 July 2020
A deadset Australianism
Aussie Word of the Week
With the glorious return of the footy to our screens, we can now support our team from the comfort of our lounge. The atmosphere might not be quite the same, but you can still barrack just as hard for your team from the safety of your sofa. To barrack is to shout encouragement for a player or team but can also be used outside of sporting contexts. This deadset Australianism dates back to the 1890s. There has been a lot of discussion about the origin of this term, and many fabled origins have been put forward, generally having something to do with soldiers from army barracks supporting a certain team at a certain place. None of these theories have anything going for them other than that they are nice stories. An alternative theory suggests a connection with the dialect of Northern Ireland, where barrack meant to boast or brag. Northern Irish slang is mad craic, but we will keep the focus closer to home. For Aussie language historians, it should be noted that barrack was formerly used to mean to jeer at someone or ridicule them. This meaning dates back to the 1870s and was common in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 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 July 2020
Seven new words from 'travel bubble' to 'finsta'
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. This month, the stars are our destination with astrotourism: trips taken to stargaze or seek out dark sky locations, of which there are plenty in Australia. Back down on earth we are having an ugly-cry over our fakeaway dinners, the homemade version of your favourite takeaway food. In the digital world we are seeing usage of the word finsta: a private Instagram account created to share content with close friends in a less public manner than a standard account. You may have heard a lot of discussion about travel bubbles, which is an agreement between nations to form a closed circle of tourism post COVID-19. Race lift, to change the race of a character in an adaptation, is another word relevant to our current social climate. Gruntle, the opposite of disgruntled, is our final new word for July. This isn't the first time that gruntle has appeared on the Macquarie blog. As with all new words, our editors are monitoring gruntle for more widespread usage that would earn the word a coveted place in the Macquarie Dictionary. 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 29 June 2020
You're so unco
Aussie Word of the Week
This blog goes out to all the accident-prone people of the world, our fellow uncos. Unco or The Man from Unco means awkward or clumsy. Typically used by schoolkids, unco is a shortened version of uncoordinated. That was an unco thing to do You're so unco Aussie slang is chockers with great and hilarious terms for the uncoordinated among us. Captain coordination is - ironically - as clumsy as a duck in a ploughed paddock. If you find yourself chewing on word salad in social situations, you could be described as a dorba or dorb: a stupid person, especially someone who is clumsy or socially inept. Back in Australia's convict days a clumsy person was called a galoot, an awkward, silly fellow. A great clumsy oaf. The origin of this one is a bit of a mystery. It was originally used by sailors to refer to soldiers or marines, and is first recorded in a glossary of Australian convict slang back in 1812. Its history before this is unknown. 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 25 June 2020
Alot of poking the bear
Here at the Macquarie Dictionary, we receive (and welcome) messages from everyone about new words, changes to definitions and grammar and spelling bugbears. Many of these are addressed in our definitions already, but sometimes we like to delve into the more complicated queries. We were already aware of Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half, but recently, we've fielded some queries about something that she wrote about at great length, the difference between a lot and alot. Before we get into this, please remember that in Australian English there are different registers of language. And that language constantly shifts and evolves. Now take a deep breath and let's begin! The phrase a lot is well established in Australian English. We use it to mean a number of things.
- to a considerable degree; much: that’s a lot better.
- a great many or a great deal: a lot of books.
- many times: to do it a lot.
- to a considerable degree; much: that’s alot worse.
- a great many or a great deal: alot of people are going to complain.
- many times: to complain alot.
Posted on 24 June 2020
Six more unusual, beautiful words
Beautiful words don't just sound beautiful, some roll off the tongue with ease, some hit the air in sharp tones while others stretch out as you meander over syllables and roll certain letters. Some words evoke images and feelings as much as meaning. Below are six beautiful words to warm you this winter. Why not test out how they sound? Comment below if you think there are any other words worthy of the list and you might see them in an upcoming blog. You can also read the other entries in our beautiful words series here on our blog.
Posted on 22 June 2020
Passing through a one-pub town
Aussie Word of the Week
One-pub town is a way to describe those small Australian country towns you drive through on a road trip. They often sit on a crossroads with one pub, one church and a hand full of scattered houses or homesteads marking them out from the surrounding landscape. One-pub towns lie even further out of our urban centres than the backblocks we discussed in a recent blog post. Coined by no less than Australian literary icon, Henry Lawson, one-pub town carries a similar meaning to one-horse town, though with perhaps less sting than the latter, which means an insignificant, unimportant, or backward town. As the nation reopens, we hope to be stopping in a few one-pub towns as we move from motel to motel across the land. 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 15 June 2020
Whoa there, wowser!
Aussie Word of the Week
We all know on person who specialises in ruining our fun. A wowser is slang name for a prudish teetotaller; a killjoy, spoilsport or nark; a person who doesn't know how to have fun and wishes to prevent others from doing so. Wowser first appeared in the 1890s in the Sydney Truth newspaper and was later claimed by the editor John Norton to be of his own coinage, supposedly an acronym of the slogan We Only Want Social Evils Remedied. Wowsers and other negative Nancies opposed to the enjoyment of life's pleasures can be described as wowserish. Of course, we couldn't finish this week's blog without a shout out to the opposite of a wowser: the relentlessly positive optimist, for whom everything is endlessly fantastic. Unfortunately, there is no obvious slang term for people with an overly sunny disposition. If you think of one let us know if the comments below. 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 12 June 2020
Flying fish or flying fishes?
Which would you use if three of these creatures flew over your boat? We've discussed the differences between person and people before, but what is the rule when it comes to fish and fishes? While both are in use, and both correct, there is definitely a preference in usage. The plural form fish is the one most commonly used, whether or not the sense is collective. For example, I caught ten fish is more common than I caught ten fishes. When the plural form fishes is used, it is generally in order to stress plurality. In particular, zoologists use fish when they are referring to a group comprising individuals of the same species and fishes when they are referring to a group comprising two or more species. This pattern usually also applies to the plural forms of the names of particular fish (for example, salmon or salmons, bream or breams). However, there are some fish which most commonly take the -s form of the plural in all contexts. Thus ten sardines is preferable to ten sardine. As always, the best thing to do if you're not sure is check the Macquarie Dictionary! And if you're after collective nouns, check out this blog.
Posted on 8 June 2020
Road trippin' with the grey nomad
Aussie Word of the Week
By the time you reach retirement age, you have earned the chance to wander. Grey nomads are as much a part of the Australian landscape as eucalyptus trees and red dirt. A grey nomad is a colloquial name for an older person, often retired from full-time work, who travels around the country, living in a caravan or motorhome. Drive down any highway or pass through any country town and you are likely to see at least one campervan loaded with travelling essentials and captained by retirees. Travelling around Australian in your campervan, caravan or motor home has become somewhat of a tradition, a rite of passage into the later stages of life. Perhaps your grandparents are grey nomads. Maybe your parents have itchy feet and are gearing up for a bit of cross country dalliance. Travel has been somewhat curtailed of late. We are hoping to see the grey nomads back on the road soon, alongside backpackers, fruit pickers and travellers of all kinds. 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 3 June 2020
Autumn leaves fall down
As the temperature drops from summer to autumn (and into winter), the leaves start to change colour and fall from the trees, and we button up our cardigans, pull on our woollen socks and make (yet another) cup of tea. Autumn is well and truly here. We have words for various weather phenomena in Australia, such as knock 'em down rains in the Northern Territory, as well as a host of words for heat across the nation. But we were recently asked why exactly it is that in Australia (and other countries) we call the season autumn while in the United States (and other places) it is called fall. The word autumn comes to us from Latin autumnus; replacing Middle English autompne, originating from Old French, and is used to refer to the season between summer and winter. In the southern hemisphere, this is understood to include the months of March, April and May, generally following the calendar dates of 1 March to 31 May. In the northern hemisphere, this is generally from mid-September to mid-December, and falls between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. The word fall is also used to refer to the season, though is chiefly an Americanism. The word fall comes to us from Middle English falle(n) from the Old English feallan, and is thought to refer to the act of trees shedding their leaves ahead of winter. The word fall, while not commonly used in other parts of the world to refer to this season, can be useful when reminding us about daylight savings time. We 'spring' forward and 'fall' back.
Posted on 1 June 2020
We've got you pegged
Aussie Word of the Week
We've got you pegged with this week's Aussie Word of the Week. Commonly used in New South Wales and Queensland, peg is an adaptable piece of Aussie slang that means to toss or throw something. In use since at least the 1940s, peg has a few other meanings you are likely to hear around Australia. Peg can mean to watch or observe, as in I've got you pegged, which is similar to number, as in, I've got your number, meaning to have someone's measure. Peg also means to have a look, as in have a peg at this. Finally, peg can refer to a degree, as in from our standpoint we went up a peg tonight. Really, this is one of the most flexible pieces of Aussie slang that has featured on this blog. Which meaning is most used in your state? 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 June 2020
New words to warm you 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. Once again, there are a couple of words related to the Coronavirus pandemic. We covered COVID-19 terminology in a blog post back in March. As the country tentatively opens up and you begin to emerge from iso - isolation due to government lockdown - you may find yourself showing off some new iso skills - skills gained, developed or used due to isolation from COVID-19. Elsewhere, we’ve been brewing up dalgona coffee, a style of iced coffee made with a whipped froth of equal parts coffee, sugar and water over milk. Coffee and reading make a great pair. Why not enjoy your dalgona with some sick lit: a genre of books about sick, often terminally ill teenagers. Spoopy is something scary depicted or perceived in a cute way, while a thumb stopper is a news story or other online content that makes you stop scrolling and pay attention (and give those thumb muscles a well-deserved break). 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.