The 'larrikin' PM

Word watch

Bob Hawke contributed many words to Australian English, as Australian National Dictionary editor Dr Amanda Laugesen, BA (Hons) ’97, PhD ’01 explains.

At the time of writing, the former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, had just died.

Hawke is notable for many significant contributions as leader of the country, but he also contributed to the lexicon of Australian English.

The second edition of the Australian National Dictionary (2016) records several terms that can be attributed to Hawke and his period of government, as well as numerous quotations that reveal the way Hawke used or was identified with Australian English.

Hawke’s period of leadership contributed the words accord, clever country, and Dawkinisation to the vocabulary of Australian English. Of these, accord and Dawkinisation are mostly of historical interest, respectively referring to Labor’s work with bringing unions and corporate interests together, and transforming the higher education sector.

But clever country, coined by Hawke during the 1990 election, has remained an important political term, referring to the notion of national prosperity through investment in education, research, and technology. Hawke is also responsible for the term Hawkespeak, defined in the dictionary as a ‘prolix style of speaking ascribed to Prime Minister Bob Hawke’.

Hawke, often described as a ‘larrikin’, was noted for his use of Australianisms. He provides the first ‘real-life’ evidence (1975) for the AFL phrase chewie on your boot, a barracker’s call intended to discourage a player from performing well. In being quoted by the media, he also gives us important evidence for the term bucket, in the sense of a damaging revelation.