Aussie words of the year – the ones that got away

Bringing up the rear in the Word of the Year announcements, Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary revealed its choices for 2011 last week.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Oxford Dictionaries WOTY was squeezed middle, while in the US the American Dialect Society went with occupy and for Merriam-Webster, the word pragmatic topped the list. All these WOTY seem to reflect the general economic uncertainty felt in Europe and North America.

So, what did Australia – which hasn’t been as badly affected by the economic downturn – choose? Well, perhaps appropriately, the Macquarie Dictionary Committee chose burqini (n. a swimsuit designed for Muslim women) – brought famously to our attention by Nigella Lawson on Bondi Beach last year.

As Susan Butler, Editor of Macquarie Dictionary, said:

“Burqini seemed to be a very cute and successful coinage and what lay behind it was a fusion of culture, in an area of life which is so Australian… life on the beach.”

The Committee gave honourable mentions to three more words:

  • patchwork economy (n. an economy characterised by areas of growth as well as areas of decline)
  • dairyness (n. the productivity of a cow in terms of the quality and quantity of its milk)
  • announceable (n. an item made public by a government, usually in a media release, as good publicity for the government or as a distraction from bad publicity)

The Macquarie also has a People’s Choice Award. The word that garnered most votes for 2011 was fracking (n. a process whereby rock is fractured to gain access to oil and gas). This word also won the Environment category – the Macquarie WOTY has 16 categories ranging from Agriculture to Technology.

I was disappointed that my personal favourite – thongage (n. a charge to a patron of a restaurant incurred by wearing thongs into the restaurant) – didn’t win the Eating and Drinking category. You need to be aware that in Australia thongs are not skimpy underwear but what we call flip-flops.

This category also included selmelier (n. a waiter who assists diners in choosing the appropriate salt with which to season their meals); and japas (n. tapas-style servings of Japanese food).

The Aussie words of the year are distinctly playful – rather like Australian English generally. You should take a squiz at Aussie slang sometime…

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