Macquarie Dictionary Blog
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.
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.