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 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. 
  1. to a considerable degree; much: that’s a lot better.
  2. a great many or a great deal: a lot of books.
  3. many times: to do it a lot.
  However, for a while now, we've been noticing this phrase being written as one word, making some people a little confused and others positively apoplectic.    alot  (in non-standard use)
  1. to a considerable degree; much: that’s alot worse.
  2. a great many or a great deal: alot of people are going to complain.
  3. many times: to complain alot. 
The form alot does have a place in the dictionary but it also comes with a note cautioning that it is not generally accepted as standard usage. It is the role of a dictionary to monitor, not just new emerging terms and senses, but how the form of language can change. Word compounds often start as separate units. Over time we often see a shift to hyphenation or even a shift to a solid form. For example, electronic mail > E-mail > e-mail > email. The adverb anyhow was formerly any how, and although the adjective alright has been a disputed usage for all right, it is increasingly common in published writing. The form alot is a result of compounding, following the pattern of words such as anyhow and alright and many, many others.  As to whether it will become an established standard form 10, 50 or 100 years down the track, who knows, but one thing's for sure, we'll be seeing alot more of it now. (Image courtesy of Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half)
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.