Australian words that defined a decade

24 January 2020

Around 5,400 new English words are created every year, according to Global Language Monitor, a US-based organisation that documents, analyses and tracks trends in the English language worldwide. But just creating a word doesn’t mean it will end up in the dictionary – each year around 1,000 or so are considered widespread enough to make it into print.

The Australian people cast their vote

In December each year, the Australian public votes on their favourite word out of a short list of words selected by a Macquarie Dictionary committee. To qualify for the Word of the Year shortlist, a word must be:

  1. Newly added to the dictionary in that year, or
  2. An old word with an additional new meaning.

Other short-list characteristics are the word is frequently used, timely, influential, and makes a valuable contribution to Australian English.

The winning People’s Choice words of the year over the last decade are:

2010    shockumentary

1. A documentary film or television show featuring footage of accidents or violence.

2. A documentary film or television show which gives damaging information about government bodies, industries, etc., often presented in such a way as to magnify the inherent shock value of the facts.

2011    fracking

(In oil and gas mining) a process by which fractures are made in rock by the application under pressure of chemically treated water mixed with sand to natural or man-made openings in order to gain access to oil or gas supplies, considered by some to be associated with groundwater contamination; hydraulic fracturing.

2012    First World problem

A problem that relates to the affluent lifestyle associated with the First World, and that would never arise in the poverty-stricken circumstances of the Third World, as having to settle for plunger coffee when one's espresso machine is not functioning.

2013    onesie

1.  A loose-fitting one-piece suit, usually of a stretch fabric, gathered at the wrists and ankles and loose at the crotch.

2.  A one-piece stretch garment for an infant, with or without legs and sleeves, sometimes enclosing the feet.

2014    share plate

A serving in a restaurant designed as multiple small portions so that several diners can share the same dish.

2015    captain's call

A decision made by a political or business leader without consultation with colleagues.

2016    halal snack pack (HSP)

A fast food containing layers of chips, grated cheese, halal doner kebab meat, garlic sauce, barbecue sauce, and chilli sauce.

2017    framily

A group of people who are not related by blood but who constitute an intimate network.

2018    single-use

Intended for disposal after only one use: single-use plastic bags; single-use cups.

2019    robodebt

A debt owed to the government by a welfare recipient, arising from an overpayment of benefits calculated by an automated process which compares the recipient’s income as stated by them to the government with their income as recorded by the Australian Taxation Office, a debt recovery notice being automatically generated and sent to the welfare recipient.

Assimilating new words

With frequent use, we soon absorb new words and meanings into our vocabulary – it seems to me we have been ordering share plates and avoiding single-use items for more than a decade. A reputable and reliable dictionary, such as the Macquarie Dictionary or Australian Oxford Dictionary, is a treasure trove of information and an essential tool in the quest for correct and meaningful written communication.

For all your written communication needs at your workplace, contact Concise Writing Consultancy on 02 9238 6638 today.

 

Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2016/feb/04/english-neologisms-new-words

https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au

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