Amanda Laugesen

Amanda Laugesen

Amanda Laugesen is a historian and lexicographer. She is currently the director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANU) and Chief Editor of The Australian National Dictionary. Amanda has published widely in areas such as the social and cultural history of war, book history, and the history of Australian English.

'Strong curry: On the trail of election language' by Amanda Laugesen

July 2022, no. 444 25 June 2022
Each federal election brings with it a bunch of promises, attacks, blunders, and unpredictable moments. During the recent federal election we had Anthony Albanese’s ‘gaffe’, Scott Morrison’s undercooked chicken curry, and #JoshKeeper. As usual, the intrepid (and long-suffering) lexicographers and language watchers were hard at work monitoring the language of the campaign. ... (read more)

'A hot novax summer: The influence of sport and Covid on Australian language' by Amanda Laugesen

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
The Australian summer was once again a story of Covid. Just as things were slowly reaching a state of ‘Covid-normal’, Omicron came along to present us with new, decidedly unwelcome, challenges. Despite Omicron, our summer did not pass by without one of its most defining features: sport. Many events went ahead as planned, not least the Australian Open tennis tournament. ... (read more)

'Covidspeak revisited: The latest lexical mutations' by Amanda Laugesen

October 2021, no. 436 06 October 2021
'Covidspeak revisited: The latest lexical mutations' by Amanda Laugesen
More than a year ago, I wrote about how those of us interested in language were tracking the many words and expressions being generated by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, all of Australia was in iso, and we had all turned to the joys (for some of us) of isobaking or learning to crochet. As the pandemic has dragged on, the language generated by it has changed. The Covidspeak of 2021 reflects ou ... (read more)

'Apostrophe anarchy! For the love of punctuation' by Amanda Laugesen

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
'Apostrophe anarchy! For the love of punctuation' by Amanda Laugesen
An email arrived in my inbox recently with an article from the British newspaper The Times. It was an obituary of John Richards, a former journalist and the man who founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001. This organisation was dedicated to the protection of the apostrophe, ‘a threatened species’, according to Richards. He closed the Society down in 2019; aside from his age at the ti ... (read more)

'"The awful sense of loss": The language of climate grief' by Amanda Laugesen

May 2021, no. 431 26 April 2021
A little over a year ago, I was writing about the effects of the Black Summer of bushfires on our language. When Covid-19 hit, suddenly we were collecting the words of the pandemic. Despite the overwhelming focus on the pandemic (and its language) over the past year, the language of climate change has continued to evolve. My column on the Black Summer bushfires touched on the broader vocabulary of ... (read more)

'Blankety-blank: The art of the euphemism' by Amanda Laugesen

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Disguising the words we dare not print has a long and fascinating history. From the late eighteenth century in particular, it became common in printed works to disguise words such as profanities and curses – from the use of typographical substitutes such as asterisks to the replacement of a swear word with a euphemism. When I was researching my recent book, Rooted, on the history of bad language ... (read more)

'From swaggies to snapback' by Amanda Laugesen

September 2020, no. 424 24 August 2020
'From swaggies to snapback' by Amanda Laugesen
Financial crises, recessions, and times of high unemployment have periodically affected Australia. They have also shaped our vocabulary. The first recording of the iconic Australian word battler, in the sense of a person who struggles for a livelihood, was in 1896 by Henry Lawson in While the Billy Boils. The ‘swagman, itinerant worker’ sense of battler was first recorded in 1898. The verb to ... (read more)

'Coronaspeak: Tracking language in a pandemic' by Amanda Laugesen

June–July 2020, no. 422 26 May 2020
'Coronaspeak: Tracking language in a pandemic' by Amanda Laugesen
Listen to this essay read by the author. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all our lives, and little else has featured in the media for weeks. Unsurprisingly, this has led those of us who work with words to track the language of the pandemic (coronaspeak) closely. Here at the Australian National Dictionary Centre (temporarily WFH, of course), we have been compiling a database of the words emergi ... (read more)

Amanda Laugesen reviews 'Sounds and Furies: The love–hate relationship between women and slang' by Jonathon Green

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
Amanda Laugesen reviews 'Sounds and Furies: The love–hate relationship between women and slang' by Jonathon Green
Kate Lister (historian and curator of the website Whores of Yore) writes in her foreword to Sounds and Furies that language ‘is a powerful agent of social control, and dictates the acceptable, the feminine, and the well behaved’. Slang lexicons have long served to objectify women in all sorts of ways. It is not surprising, she argues, that Green’s Online Dictionary of Slang records only twen ... (read more)

'Crisis lexicon' by Amanda Laugesen

March 2020, no. 419 21 February 2020
As I write this, Canberra is once again under threat from the Orroral Valley fire south of the city. This comes after a summer of intense and incredibly destructive bushfires and, for Canberra, endless days of smoke haze, followed by a damaging hailstorm. The coronavirus also dominates the daily newsfeeds as a global health emergency takes hold. Our public language in the last months has been tra ... (read more)
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