Susan Butler, Editor
The words that a language community chooses to use end up being, collectively, a mirror to the changes that are happening around us. The task of the dictionary is to keep track of these changes as one way of recording our culture. This blog will allow me to note the detail of language change as it happens, analysing current use and perhaps following a thread into history. I hope that it will be an important preliminary to decisions that are made about what should go into the dictionary.

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  • One person, two people, three persons, four?

    Jul 20, 2017 | 1 Comment

    A dictionary reader asked about the distinction between persons and people, both indicating plurality but having different connotations.

    If we start with the etymologies of the two words we can see that they are coming from different directions... Read more...


  • Should these words go in the Macquarie Dictionary?

    Jul 03, 2017 | 2 Comments

    July 2017

    We are always on the lookout for new, emerging and interesting words to add to the Macquarie Dictionary. In a time of global instant communication, these words are popping up faster and in vaster quantities than ever before. Read more...


  • Celebrating language for NAIDOC Week

    Jul 03, 2017 | 0 Comments

    This NAIDOC Week, we're celebrating by sharing some fun facts around the many different Aboriginal languages and cultures in Australia. Read more...


  • Language that is blue – or green – whatever you fancy

    Jun 08, 2017 | 0 Comments

    The different meanings of colour words normally flow from their basic sense and are self-evident.

    Blue for the old-fashioned washing powder came about because it turned blue in water. A blue for a sporting award came about because the ribbon with which the person or animal was draped was blue. Read more...


  • Should these words go in the Macquarie Dictionary?

    Jun 06, 2017 | 1 Comment

    June 2017

    We are always on the lookout for new, emerging and interesting words to add to the Macquarie Dictionary. In a time of global instant communication, these words are popping up faster and in vaster quantities than ever before. Read more...


  • Mind-bogglingly visceral reactions

    May 23, 2017 | 1 Comment

    We often describe reactions in terms of the effect they have on our bodies, both real and imagined.

    So something that is scary is hair-raising – our hair stands on end, or is bloodcurdling – we imagine our blood solidifying like curdled milk. Read more...


  • The surprising evolution of the -tard suffix

    May 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

    One of the ways in which English expands the lexicon is by using what are called ‘productive’ prefixes or suffixes. These are little working units with an element of meaning which can be attached to the beginning or the end of another word to create a new word. Some of these are very durable while others are fashionable for a moment so that they generate a cluster of new words and then fade away. Read more...


  • Lewis Carroll's coinages

    May 09, 2017 | 2 Comments

    Lewis Carroll contributed some of the most inspirational writing in history to the world. With his remarkable manipulation of language, he captured the imaginations not only of children, but of aspiring writers, readers and everyone else who came in contact with his word. Read more...


  • Should these words go in the Macquarie Dictionary?

    May 03, 2017 | 1 Comment

    May 2017

    We are always on the lookout for new, emerging and interesting words to add to the Macquarie Dictionary. In a time of global instant communication, these words are popping up faster and in vaster quantities than ever before. Read more...


  • The best thing since sliced bread!

    Apr 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

    We still say it – or at least the older generation does because they are still living in a world where sliced bread is a staple – for toast in the morning, for school lunches. Cutting a crusty loaf yourself is regarded, from that point of view, as some sort of throwback to Neanderthal times... Read more...


  • The shifting sounds of words.

    Apr 11, 2017 | 5 Comments

    The pronunciation that bothers me most is one that I shouldn't really be fussed about at all. It is the shift in the pronunciation of worry which used to rhyme with hurry but now rhymes, more and more, with sorry.

    This word has had various forms and pronunciations in its history in the English language. It started out as an Old English word wyrgan meaning 'to strangle' (from which we got the idea of the dog worrying the sheep, from which we got the notion of feeling upset and anxious). Read more...


  • Should these words go in the Macquarie Dictionary?

    Apr 04, 2017 | 1 Comment

    April 2017

    We are always on the lookout for new, emerging and interesting words to add to the Macquarie Dictionary. In a time of global instant communication, these words are popping up faster and in vaster quantities than ever before. Read more...