That’s because Oxford Dictionaries has today announced its largest-ever quarterly update of Australian English on OxfordDictionaries.com – with more than 500 new entries added to the free online dictionary of English.
New entries include a fascinating range of vocabulary – including Australian English terms, words borrowed from Aboriginal languages, and a huge variety of abbreviations. Many of the terms are also used in New Zealand English.
Words and expressions found mainly in Australian English include ‘lamington drive’ (a charity fund-raiser from the sale of lamington sponge cakes); ‘sausage sizzle’ (a similar fund-raiser or social event involving hot dogs); ‘lolly water’ (a weak or non-alcoholic drink); ‘mugaccino’ (a cappuccino served in a mug); ‘rubbity-dub’ (rhyming slang for pub); ‘off the grog’ (not drinking alcohol); ‘rough as guts’ (lacking refinement); and ‘wombat crossing’ (a pedestrian crossing in the form of a wide, flat speed bump).
Words from Aboriginal languages have entered Australian English since 1770, when Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks first recorded ‘kangaroo’. The borrowing process continues today, and new entries in the dictionary include ‘maluka’ (the boss or person in charge); ‘wonguim’ (a boomerang which returns to its owner); ‘makarrata’ (a ceremonial ritual symbolising the restoration of peace after a dispute); and ‘munjon’ (an Aboriginal person who has had little contact with white society).
The additions to the dictionary also reflect how Australians and New Zealanders tend to use more abbreviations and diminutives than any other English speakers. New entries for words ending in -ie or -y include ‘littley’ (a young child); ‘mushie’ (a mushroom); ‘ocky’ (an octopus); ‘saltie’ (a saltwater crocodile); ‘scratchie’ (a scratch card); ‘shornie’ (a newly shorn sheep); ‘trammie’ (a tram driver or conductor); ‘wettie’ (a wetsuit); and ‘youngie’ (a young person).
The -o suffix also appears frequently in words such as ‘milko’ (milkman); Nasho (a person undergoing compulsory military training as introduced under the National Service Act); ‘plonko’ (an alcoholic); and ‘sarvo’ (this afternoon).
Linguists say that shortening words and using endings such as -o and -ie or -y makes the speaker appear more relaxed and friendly. So by using this informal style people are often signalling their lack of pretentiousness, and making themselves appear open and approachable.
The dictionary update is part of a project with the Australian National Dictionary Centre to increase Oxford Dictionaries’ online coverage of international varieties of English. The big advantage of the online format is that it eliminates the difficulties lexicographers have previously faced by providing unlimited space for dictionary entries.
Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “Australian English has an amazingly rich seam of vocabulary, and in this latest update we have boosted the coverage by adding more than 500 Australianisms, both recent and past coinages, with words from subjects as wide-ranging as business and education, sport and leisure, farming, food and drink, the weather and the landscape.
“The Australian sense of humour is conveyed by colourful colloquialisms and slang terms such as ‘shirtfront’ (vigorously confront or challenge) and rubbity-dub, while there are also key historical terms, terms from Aboriginal languages, and technical vocabulary. By doing all of this, OxfordDictionaries.com presents a fascinating picture of Australia’s unique culture, history and language.”