Amanda Laugesen

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 Onl ...

Crisis lexicon

Amanda Laugesen
Friday, 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.

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Whither wowser?

Amanda Laugesen
Monday, 16 December 2019

Lexicographers, especially historical ones, are always interested in the way words fall in and out of fashion. But while we spend a lot of time tracing the first usage of a word and trying to figure out its origins, we pay much less attention to when or why a word falls out of common usage.

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One’s last gumtree

Amanda Laugesen
Thursday, 24 October 2019

Sidney (Sid) J. Baker (1912–76) is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in the history of Australian slang lexicography. Born in New Zealand, Baker worked in Australia as a journalist, writing for publications such as ABC Weekly, The Daily Telegraph, and The Sydney Morning Herald. He was also the author of a number of books about Australian slang, one of which is A Popular Dictionary of Australian Slang (1941).

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The Great War produced its own idiom and slang. Many of the new words and phrases created during the long conflict, such as ‘tank’ and ‘barrage’, became part of standard English, although often with a different nuance of meaning.

The recording of Australian soldier slang was seen as important at the end of the war. It was recognised as being integral ...

Amanda Laugesen on the slow death of Australian slang

Amanda Laugesen
Wednesday, 23 July 2014

There was a recent flurry of Australian media interest in the wake of the publication of a new edition of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, edited by Tony Thorne. Thorne only added a small number of new Australian slang termsto the new edition: ‘ort’, buttocks; ‘tockley’, penis; and ‘unit’, defined as a bogan. The apparent lack of new Austra ...

Amanda Laugesen on the ‘super-dictionary’

Amanda Laugesen
Wednesday, 28 May 2014

In a 2011 lecture, David Crystal, a leading authority on the English language, spoke about the possibility of a ‘super-dictionary’ of English – a dictionary that would include every word in global English. Such a dictionary was, he acknowledged, a ‘crazy, stupid idea’, but an idea that seemed somehow possible in the electronic age, where the constraints of print no longer apply.

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Amanda Laugesen on Slang and the Australian Soldier

Amanda Laugesen
Thursday, 27 March 2014

The relationship between the world of soldiers and the world of civilians has long been a topic of interest to historians and other scholars of war. Joan Beaumont’s significant new book Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War (reviewed in ABR, February 2014) emphasises the importance of considering the war front and home front side by side, and a ...