Language

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 title of this book refers to the battle for market dominance between the editors and publishers of two rival dictionaries, the one edited by Noah Webster and the other by Joseph Worcester. This battle took place largely between 1829 and 1864, and it was played out in the newspapers and by means of pamphlet warfare ...

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Bob Dixon has researched Australian Indigenous languages since the 1960s, has constructed grammars of five languages, and has written numerous scholarly books and articles on Aboriginal languages ...

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Matthew Engel has written for many years in The Guardian and the Financial Times, on topics ranging from politics to sport, and between 1993 and 2007 he produced editions of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. In this latest book he takes up the bat (or steps up to the plate) for British English. That’s the Way It Crumbles is a lament ...

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What does a lexicographer do? How do you become a lexicographer? What makes a good lexicographer? What is the difference between a ‘standard’ dictionary and a dictionary based on historical principles? How do you reinvent the Oxford English Dictionary so that it has a secure place in an online modern publishing world? These are among the questions explo ...

There have been popular accounts of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, especially Simon Winchester’s The Surgeon of Crowthorne (1998) and The Meaning of Everything (2003), and there have been more scholarly accounts, such as ...

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The Australian National Dictionary – the second edition of which has just been published – is based on historical principles and modelled on the large Oxford ...

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