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 emerging from the pandemic; from anti-lockdown protest to zumping (being dumped via Zoom), the Covid-19 isolation lockdown has generated its own vocabulary.... (read more)
Jack Hibberd reviews 'The Australian National Dictionary: Australian words and their origins' edited by W.S. Ramson
Apart from Abbott’s booby (the gannet Sula abbotti, which now breeds only on Christmas Island), all entries on the first two pages of the Australian National Dictionary pertain to race and white foundation. Is this mere chance, or do we here have an instance of the knack of language to trap and reticulate human experience from its very springs? Probably a spot of both. Whatever: how apt that a dictionary of Australianisms based on historical principles should start with words such as Aboriginal, abolition act, abscond, and absolute pardon. Absolute pardon is followed by acacia, whose bloom is the emblem of our national besottedness.... (read more)
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 Onl ...
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.... (read more)
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.... (read more)
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).... (read more)
Bruce Moore reviews 'The Dictionary Wars: The American fight over the English language' by Peter Martin
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 ...... (read more)
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 ...... (read more)
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 ...... (read more)
Bruce Moore reviews 'The Word Detective: A life in words, from Serendipity to Selfie' by John Simpson
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 ...