The Australian National Dictionary

The Australian National Dictionary

Word watch

ANU has had an influential role on the Australian lexicography as Australian National Dictionary editor AMANDA LAUGESEN, BA (Hons) ’97, PhD ’01 explains.

It has been 28 years since the first edition of The Australian National Dictionary was published and the publication of the second edition – The Australian National Dictionary: Australian Words and their Origins – this month will be a tremendous milestone in the history of Australian lexicography.

Throughout the new edition, many ANU people have contributed– as authors whose work has been cited, as well as consultants – and we have also cited ANU publications, notably Woroni and ANU Reporter.

As a result, I thought it might be fun to look at how often we have quoted ANU Reporter as evidence in our dictionary entries and the reasons why.

ANU Reporter has provided quotation evidence for 19 entries in the dictionary.

Quotations are what we use to illustrate the ‘word-histories’ that make up the dictionary and they reveal a range of insights into our culture, politics and society, as well as our language.

In looking at the set of quotations from ANU Reporter, I was interested to see a number relate to Indigenous Australia. This no doubt reflects the University’s long-standing interest in studying and promoting Indigenous issues.

ANU Reporter provides evidence for the terms Aboriginal Australia (quoting former ANU academic and noted historian Peter Read), rom ceremony (quoting a 1995 discussion of the Gidjingarli people of northern Arnhem Land), didge (in a discussion about the didgeridoo) and the Dreaming.

However, most quotations from ANU Reporter are for birds. This reflects the wonderful bird life that is such a marked feature of the ANU campus.

Any person connected with ANU will instantly be able to conjure up the image presented in the following quotation from 1984: ‘Two Maned Ducks out for a stroll on the banks of Sullivans Creek.’

ANU Reporter also provides evidence for other birds spotted on campus over the years, such as the olive-backed oriole, the superb fairy-wren, the white-browed scrub wren, the white-faced heron and the white-plumed honeyeater.

The ANU Staff Centre’s Wine List is not quite ANU Reporter but I can’t resist mentioning the quotation we have included from it.

While the days of the ANU Staff Centre are before my time, there will certainly be people on campus who remember them.

The Wine List provides one of our bits of evidence for the word cask (possibly written by poet and Foundation Professor of English at ANU AD (Alec) Hope): ‘Our cask is launched with flags unfurled; Australia’s blessing to the world.’