Macquarie leaving this duck behind

The folk at the Macquarie Dictionary seem to love to shock.

Last year, the Macquarie’s word of the year was ‘milkshake duck’. Familiar to you? Me neither.

They explained: “Even if you don’t know the word, you know the phenomenon.”


“Milkshake duck stood out as being a much-needed term to describe something we are seeing more and more of, not just on the internet but now across all types of media.”

I’m no clearer.

“It plays to the simultaneous desire to bring someone down and the hope that they won’t be brought down. In many ways, it captures what 2017 has been about. There is a hint of tall poppy syndrome in there, which we always thought was a uniquely Australian trait, but has been amplified through the internet and become universalised.”

I’m paddling hard but getting no closer.

There was a People’s Choice award, too. That went to ‘framily’. According to the Macquarie committee, it’s “an interesting new sociological word, especially as our vocabulary has not always kept up with the changes we are now seeing to the conventional ideas of what constitutes a family. There is an element of kitschness to the coinage but we love it to pieces.”

I mention these ‘winners’ because Macquarie is inviting nominations for the 2018 word of the year.

Submissions include:

  • detourism – travel that is off the beaten track
  • psychobiotics – live bacteria which, when ingested, can manipulate human gut bacteria for mental health benefits
  • factflip – when a politician or government changes impending policies because of pressure from the public
  • CODA – child of deaf adult
  • zucked – to be banned from Facebook
  • plogging – joggers who stop to pick up rubbish on their run
  • brookie – combination of a brownie and a cookie.

The 2016 word of the year was ‘halal snack pack’, and in 2015 it was ‘captain’s call’ as made famous by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

I’ll leave you with an apt word for this time of the year – lurgy, defined as ‘an unspecified illness, often a cold or case of the flu’.

And the origins? Macquarie says: “It first came to prominence in The Goon Show, a 1950s radio comedy broadcast by the BBC. It is likely that Spike Milligan, as the chief writer of the show, renowned for his comically absurd turn of mind and phrase, was the word’s inventor. Who knows what he was thinking when he came up with it? The sound of the word? Or perhaps he had in the back of his mind the dialectal term lurgy-fever, meaning ‘idleness’ or ‘laziness’? Whatever it was, the dreaded lurgy was suffered by aficionados of the Goons and then by the wider population.”

Are you an English language traditionalist of the Oxford Dictionary variety? Do you hate to see new words added to the Macquarie each year? Do you have a suggestion for word of the year?

Related articles:
Why do you get zapped?
Where are Australia’s monkeys?
The world’s oldest colour

Written by Janelle Ward


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