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2002-09, 335, Brian Taylor, Language


Although I have throughout my university career been a Germanist, with the linguistics of the German language as one of my two main teaching and research areas, I have in fact since I began publishing my research back in the mid-1970s published almost as much on Australian English as I have on German. And when I have been on study leave in Europe it is largely invitations to lecture not on German but on Australian English that I have received from universities in Germany and elsewhere. Why is this so? I have explained it to myself, and others, thus: Having been trained and experienced in looking at a range of foreign languages, though quite especially German, from the outside as a non-native speaker for a very long time, I find that I am able to step outside my own language and develop hypotheses about interesting phenomena in it that do not seem to have been observed before, and then jump back inside it, so to speak, and test out my hypotheses as a native speaker. This latter I cannot do with German, where I also have to get one or more native speakers to check my hypotheses, and these have often proved to be faulty. Most other people who have been working on Australian English (nowadays abbreviated by specialists to AusE) in Australia are virtually monolingual and, being unable to use the stepping outside technique, have missed the interesting phenomena that I have been dealing with. Thus I have been able to do research and publish on the history of the development of AusE, swearing in AusE and the way we mess about with people’s names in AusE (i.e. Ocker, Hawkie, Richo, Hoges etc.).

And why the invitations? Anglicists, i.e. scholars of English, in German universities have in recent decades begun to develop an interest in varieties of English other than British and American English and have become aware that Australia has its own variety, but they do not usually know any scholar who knows anything substantial about Australian English, so when one comes their way they grab him.

All this led, while I was in Germany back in 1986, to Professor Gerhard Leitner of the Free University of Berlin, for whom I had just given a couple of lectures, sending me a rather rudimentary bibliography of Australian English, which he had put together with an eye to perhaps publishing it at some future date, with therequest that I critique it for him. It did not take me long to realise that there were quite a lot of errors in it and there were lots of relevant entries missing. I advised him to leave it with me and when I returned to Australia I would fix it up for him and return it. That led him then to suggest that we collaborate and produce it together.

Once I had accepted the offer, the thing underwent, at the hands of my colleague, great expansion in the categories it covered: to the original category Australian English was added New Zealand English (NZE), because of their similarity – now diminished by some major changes in the New Zealand accent – and their somewhat shared history. And then came the categories of Aboriginal English (AborE) and Maori English, then Migrant Englishes in the two countries, then Norfolk Island English (called by the locals simply Norfolk), because the island was politically part of Australia, even if its dialect was based on a British English dialect and Tahitian and had little or nothing linguistic to do with AusE. Later still came Auslan – Australian Deaf Language (sign language) -, Language and the Law (including the Plain English campaign to make legal documents more comprehensible to the lay person), Language Policy and Language Planning, Onomastics (i.e. the study of place names and personal names), and, later in the piece, Aboriginal, Migrant and Foreign Language Needs, Language Bias (e.g. the problem of sexist language) and Language and Education, and and lastly Earlier Bibliographies and Research Reports.

Clearly the Bibliography has over time grown like the proverbial Topsy, and we realised in retrospect that we might have bitten off more than we could adequately chew. Back in 1986 we decided that with the bicentenary of white settlement in Australia approaching we should take our entries up to studies published by the end of 1988, and in that year I was optimistic enough to write an article, not published till the next year, entitled “A bibliographical survey of 200 years of writings on Australian and New Zealand English and their interaction with migrant and indigenous languages” ( Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 12(1) 1989, pp.1-17). Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow us to finish our bicentennial bibliography in time, and since the delay drew itself out into years it became ridiculous to stay with the idea that it would be bicentennial.

The problem with the compilation of a bibliography of this sort is, of course, that, although circumstances may cause you as compiler to cease work for months or years, people still keep publishing on the topic, so that when you recommence you have to pick up all that has appeared in the meantime. It looked in 1992 as if we were on the point of publishing it through the Australian National Dictionary Research Centre at the Australian National University thanks to the support of its then Director, Dr W.S. (Bill) Ramson, a New Zealander in origin but one of the earliest and foremost researchers on AusE, and the interest of Oxford University Press Australia.

As a computer is still for me little more than a glorified typewriter, I and the people I employed on the project through the University of Sydney’s Language Centre, of which I was Acting Director, then Director, from mid-1989 till 1997, just used the everyday wordprocessor Word to put the entries in. Sadly, I showed what we were doing to a computer buff who worked for our Faculty of Arts at the time and he opined that it would look much better if put into a bibliographical computer program called LaTeX, or an adaptation of it he called BibTeX, instead of just Word. I passed it over to him thinking, in ignorance of the finer, or rather the coarser, points of computing, that he needed only to “empty” what we had on disk into his program and, hey presto!, we’d have it back ready to go in a few days. I did not see it again for eighteen months – and then only after persistent importuning. Of course, people had kept publishing in the meantime, so large numbers of new entries had to go in and the vast number of errors he had made in laboriously reformatting every single entry (hence the eighteen months) had to be corrected, so we had to get him to traina member of staff of the Language Centre to input the stuff. Some time after doing this he left the University without showing anyone how to print the thing out in camera-ready form without the masses of coding we got when we did try to print it. That held it up for further years, and in the end the Free University of Berlin has only relatively recently been able to find someone to solve the computing problems for us.

Oxford is no longer interested in publishing the Bibliography as a book, but we have now found another publisher, Mouton de Gruyter of Berlin, probably the biggest linguistics publisher in Germany, indeed in Europe, which is interested in publishing it as a CD-ROM. Our title, had it appeared as a book, was to be English in Australia and New Zealand including its interaction with in digenous and migrant languages: a bibliography from 1788 to 2001 (so the Centenary of Federation was to be the excuse now, if we needed one, and, out of respect for the indigenous populations, we had reversed the order of part of the title); it will now be Langage in Australia and New Zealand: a bibliography, 1788-2001 because of the limitations of space on the label of a CD. We have also for the purpose taken a third compiler on board, Mr Clemens Fritz, a young German scholar who has already published on the English of 19th century Irish immigrants to Australia as revealed in their letters. He is especially responsible now for inputting new entries that the three of us collect.

This inordinately long introduction to my topic should – apart from allowing me to get certain gripes off my chest – indicate why I have a pretty intimate knowledge of what has been published on Australian English and what led me to begin collecting books on the topic myself.

Research on Australian English.

There was virtually no serious research into Australian English as a variety of English in its own right till the middle of the 20th century. During the 19th century various travellers to this country made passing observations about the variety they encountered here, and most of these were derogatory. One of the more famous is the “snuffle” observed by Mrs Charles Meredith from the 1840s:

What puzzles me exceedingly to account for, a very large proportion of both male and female natives Snuffle dreadfully; just the same nasal twang so many Americans have… This is an enigma which it passes my sagacity to solve.1

Acidic comment continues on well into the 20th century, as in the following opening paragraph of the chapter “The Australian accent” in a little book generally vitriolic about all things Australian:

One of the strongest prejudices that one has to overcome when one visits Australia is that created by the weird jargon that passes for English in this country. Created is too mild a term to apply to the process. It comes as a positive shock, and I recall with actual pain the morning I awoke as the mailboat lay at Fremantle breakwater, and I heard this horrible patois filter through my porthole to offend my ear for the first time. (Valerie Desmond, The awful Australian, Sydney: John Andrew & Co. [1911], 95 pp., this passage p.15)

Even a native like Dame Nellie Melba could be scathing of “our twisted vowels, our distortions and slackness of speech”.On the other hand, a few observers praised Australian English for the “purity” of its pronunciation compared with the dialects of Britain.

As we move on now to attempts to come to grips with Australian English in a serious way, I will concentrate mainly on books, as these are of course what collectors usually prefer to collect, rather than on individual articles in periodicals etc., though I will towards the end say a word or two about the possibilities of collecting these. Where in the following I give details about the number of pages in a book and whether or not it has a dust wrapper (d/w), it may be assumed that I have this book in my, as yet not particularly impressive, collection. But first a word on the emergence of the study of Australian English.

The earliest scholarly attempt to come to terms with the accent of Australian English was that of the Scottish-born school principal and examiner in music and singing Samuel McBurney, published as the article “Colonial pronunciation” in the New Zealand newspaper the Lyttelton Times on 5 October 1887.3 He used a system of transcription called Visible Speech to overcome the problem of transcribing non-standard accents. His observations were published in tabular form in his account of New Zealand and Australian pronunciation, “Australia southeastern – a comparative table of Australasian pronunciation”, in A.J. Ellis, On early English pronunciation. Vol. V, The existing phonology of English dialects compared with that of West Saxon speech (London: Early English Text Society, 1889, pp.236-248.

It is then over half a century before we encounter in 1940 the next serious scholarly publication, a booklet titled The pronunciation of English in Australia , which was a lecture given by Alex G. Mitchell to the Australian English Association4 and privately printed by the Association. Mitchell had not long returned from London where he had studied under the great phonetician Daniel Jones (said by some to be the model for G.B. Shaw’s Professor Higgins) and realised that a non-standard, or what was then referred to as a substandard, dialect had its own legitimacy and was worthy of study in its own right.

Up into the 1940s the model of English that Australian schools attempted to inculcate officially was based on the so-called Received Pronunciation – usually referred to by linguistis as RP – of British English (BrE), often referred to as “Oxford English” or “the King’s English”. This is excellently illustrated by The art of speech: a note book for use in speech training and oral English lessons(Melbourne/Sydney: Whitcombe & Tombs Pty Ltd; viii + 89 pp.) compiled circa 1940 by H.W. Traynor, “Examiner in the Art of Speech for the Australian Music Examinations Board”. To exemplify the “unAustralianness” of the speech recommended there, we can mention that on p.54 students are warned to distinguish in

Illustration 1

pronunciation between paw, pour and poor – which most Australians would pronounce identically – and to enunciate the sentence “O my dear, there are more poor fellows” as “O my deah, theah are moah pooah fellahs”!5

In June 1946 Mitchell published his ongoing research as a book of some 85 pages (ii + 83 pp., d/w) with same title as the 1940 booklet, The pronunciation of English in Australia (Sydney/ London: Angus & Robertson). It was reprinted in March 1947, the year he was appointed to the McCaughey Chair of Early English Literature and Language at the University of Sydney; it is this reprint that I possess (Illustration 1) and it is the only version I have come across so far in secondhand bookshops. In 1957 he published Spoken English (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd; vi + 238 pp.), which, while it does not deal exclusively with AusE, refers to it throughout, and ch. XI is titled “Suggestions for Australian Teachers”. Its practical aim is underlined by the fact that it was accompanied by a gramophone record (No. PRX-3966, Columbia, Sydney) to illustrate the sounds described. However, Mitchell was by this time no longer a voice crying in the wilderness with his ideas, for the New South Wales Department of Education published, evidently in 1958, a book actually applying his theories about the pronunciation of AusE as a respectable variety of English in its own right: Speech education: a handbook for secondary teachers ([Sydney]: Department of Education, New South Wales, n.d.; 121 pp.).Mitchell is mentioned in the Foreword by the Director- General of Education, H.S. Wyndham, as being chairman of the Advisory Speech Committee that had been developing “the policy and practice explained in this book…over the past decade”.

A second edition of Mitchell’s The pronunciation of English in Australia (xiv + 82pp.), revised with the assistance of a University of Sydney colleague, Dr Arthur Delbridge, appeared in 1965. In that same year, these two men published the results of a huge, Australia-wide survey of the speech of pupils in their final year of senior high school, undertaken around 1960, in their book The speech of Australian adolescents (Sydney: Angus & Robertson).7 Now research into Australian English had well and truly got underway.

Interestingly, at about the same time as Alex Mitchell was establishing academic research into Australian English, the journalist Sidney J. Baker, a New Zealander, had also begun his own research into Australian English as well as New Zealand English.

Baker began in 1940 with his New Zealand slang: a dictionary of colloquialisms, and followed it a year later with A popular dictionary of Australian slang (Melbourne: Robertson & Mullens; xiv + 425, d/w), which by 1943 had gone through a further two editions.

Then came in 1945 his compendious The Australian language: an examination of the English language and English speech as used in Australia, from convict days to the present, with special reference to the growth of indigenous idiom and its use by Australian writers (Sydney/London: Angus & Robertson; xiv + 425 pp.) (Illustration 2), modelled, it seems, on H.L. Mencken’s The American language (4th edition, 1936). When one considers that by this time the academic world had not got much past Mitchell’s initial publication on pronunciation, one can only marvel at the scope of Baker’s book: it not only looks at the history of Australian English, and at its vocabulary from numerous perspectives (“The Bush”, “The Underworld”, “Flora and Fauna”, etc.), but also Aboriginal English, the “Norfolk dialect” (i.e. the English of Norfolk Island), “Oversea [sic] Influences” (e.g. Cockney, American) on AusE and, as Chapter XVIII, the final chapter has a most sophisticated fifty page discussion of “The Australian Accent”, in which he uses phonetic transcription as well as illustrations in the form of vowel quadrilaterals to show where the vowels of AusE are articulated and cross-sections of the human head to show the speech organs. A second edition appeared in 1966 (Sydney: Currawong Publishing) and has been reprinted several times: in 1970 (South Melbourne: Sun Books; paperback; xiv + 517 pp.), 1976, 1977 and 1978. In 1947 appeared his Australian pronunciation: a guide to good speech (Sydney: Angus & Robertson), in 1953 Australia speaks: a supplement to “The Australian Language” (Sydney: Shakespeare Head Press), and in 1959 The drum: Australian character and slang(Sydney: Currawong Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd.; [vi] + 158 pp.; d/w) with Part Two (pp.81-158) being “Australian slang dictionary”.

Illustration 2

Astonishingly, in spite of all the research on Australian English that has gone on over the intervening years, Baker’s The Australian language remains so far the only really significant integrated and comprehensive account of English in Australia and he remains probably the most prolific published writer on Australian English, whatever misgivings academics may have had and may still have about some of the the ideas that Baker put forward. From this point on we will look at the collectibles/collectables (both spellings of this word seem now to be acceptable) according to particular categories.

Glossaries, dictionaries and other studies of AusE vocabulary.

Generally accepted as the first published vocabulary of a type of English spoken in Australia is contained in the 1819 book The memoirs of James Hardy Vaux, including a new and comprehensive vocabulary of the flash language edited by B. Field (London: W. Clowes), which was republished, edited by N. McLachlan in 1964 (London: Heinemann). Vaux was transported, as a professional thief, to Australia three times. The book contains a dedication, dated Newcastle, 5th July, 1812, to the military commandant and magistrate there, Thomas Skottowe, and expresses the hope that “…you may occasionally find it useful in your magisterial capacity”. At the end of the memoirs is the 75 page “A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language, Compiled and Written by James Hardy Vaux”, running to some 740 words and phrases. The “flash language” comprised the underworld slang used in London and brought to Australia with the convicts, where some elements of it still survive, even if with slightly altered meaning (e.g. flash itself in the still current sense of ‘showy’, as in that quintessentially Australian simile “flash as a rat with a gold tooth”, and swag, originally used in the sense ‘booty, plunder’). R. Langker’s booklet Flash in New South Wales, 1788-1850, which will be referred to again below, contains an interesting commentary on Vaux and his book as well as samples of his Flash Language. (For the life of James Hardy Vaux see now also Robert Willson’s “Adventures of a literary lag”, Margin. Life and Letters of Early Australia 57 (July-August 2002), pp.10-14.)

As rare as, perhaps even rarer than, Vaux’s book is an anonymous publication of the early 1880s longwindedly titled The Sydney slang dictionary: comprising all the slang words and phrases in use in Sydney and in the shadows of life. Sporting, stage and gambling slang, low life and flash slang. Together with examples of slang phraseology, showing how hidden conversation is carried on… New edition – several thousand new words added with which is included interesting articles, Buchanan on prostitution in Sydney (Sydney: H.J. Franklin. The last part of the title implies that there had been an earlier edition, but no surviving copy of this is known of. I have the above information from the facsimile reproduction of its title page (Illustration 3) between pp. xl and xli of Gary Grimes’s A dictionary of Australian underworld slang (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993, lxxviii +225pp).

Illustration 3

There is another version which corresponds to that facsimiled in Baker’s Australian language between pages pp.146 and 147(Illustration 4), where, however, the title is: The detective’s handbook. Slang phrases comprising the quaint slang words and flash dialogues in use in Australian shadows of life . Sporting, stage, and gambling slang, low life glimpses &c. The most curious work ever issued in Australia. New edition – several thousand new words added. Despite the claim of the addition of “several thousand” new words, the booklet contains in all some nine and a quarter pages of words in two columns plus one and a quarter pages of “specimens of slang talk” – slang sentences with translations into standard English – and a further page and a bit of “addenda”, which concludes with the open-ended comment “and so on to any extent”. To some extent a con job!

It was not until on the cusp of the twentieth century that what one could call a first real dictionary of Australian English, or rather Australasian English, appeared.

Illustration 4

In 1898 a supplement to that year’s edition of Webster’s international dictionary was published as A dictionary of Australasian words, containing more than seven hundred new words and new meanings of old words, new phrases, etc., which have entered the English language from Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, which had been compiled and edited by Joshua Lake of St John’s College, Cambridge, England.  But that is not yet the dictionary we might have hoped for.

Of greater significance was, also published in 1898, Edwin E. Morris’s Austral English. A dictionary of Australasian words, phrases and usages, with those Aboriginal-Australian and Maori words which have become incorporated in the language and the commoner scientific words that have had their origin in Australasia (London: Macmillan). Edwin Ellis Morris (born India 1853, died London 1902) was a well educated Englishman with an MA from Oxford (his family returning from India not long after he turned one year old) who came to Australia in 1875 to become headmaster of Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, later, in 1882, becoming for a short time Professor of English at the University of Adelaide and subsequently, in 1884, Professor of English, French and German Languages and Literatures at the University of Melbourne (rather similarly to Mungo MacCallum, who was appointed to a no less wide-ranging professorship at the University of Sydney in the same decade). As the title page of his dictionary states, he still held this position when it was published and continued to until his death from pneumonia just after arriving in London on 2 January 1902.

Morris did not actually set out to compile his own dictionary, but had along with others been approached by James Murray early in the 1890s to collect colonial material for inclusion in the huge New English dictionary on historical principles later retitled The Oxford English dictionary, then being compiled. To do his part, Morris travelled to most, if not all, Australian states and New Zealand to do his collecting, and he ended up with so much material that he decided he had enough to publish an Australasian dictionary in its own right, though on the historical principles employed by the Oxford. Unfortunately, I do not possess the first edition of this pioneering work, though I have recently heard that it has been being sold for around $200 from certain local secondhand booksellers. But it has been reprinted: in 1968 in America (Detroit: Gale Research), and in Australia in 1972 (Sydney: Sydney University Press, with a foreword by H.L. Rogers, then occupying Alex Mitchell’s old chair of Early English Literature and Language at Sydney), in 1982 and 1983 (South Yarra, Vic.: Currey O’Neill, with a foreword by John Currey; xxii + 525; d/w), and in 1988 as Morris’s dictionary of Australian [sic] words, names and phrases(Ringwood, Vic.: Viking O’Neill, again with John Currey’s foreword). I have contented myself so far with purchasing the 1982 reprint, which I came across recently for $22 in a N.S.W. Southern Highlands bookshop. It at least has the advantage of having, as well as Morris’s own introduction, Currey’s very useful foreword, from which I have lifted much of the biographical information above.

As we have seen, over forty years later S.J. Baker began publishing listings of Australian words in his various books, but it was not until the 1960s that academics began to turn their attention to studying the vocabulary of Australian English. And as we also have seen, it was very much the pronunciation of English in Australia that Mitchell from the 1940s and later with Delbridge in the 1950s and early 1960s had been concerned with at the University of Sydney. However, in the early 1960s an interest in the vocabulary developed, and the idea of compiling a comprehensive dictionary of purely Australian English words and expressions was conceived.

First of all, of course, the groundwork studies for such a dictionary had to be undertaken. This was done in part through the writing of theses on various areas and aspects of the vocabulary, one of which, William S. Ramson’s 1963 PhD thesis “An historical study of the Australian English vocabulary” was published in 1966 as Australian English. An historical study of the vocabulary, 1788-1898 (Canberra: Australian National University Press). And in part it was done through the publications of The University of Sydney Australian Language Research Centre, founded for the purpose in 1964. The series of booklets called Occasional Papers began with one by the then Director, G.H. Russell, introducing the Centre and its work and continued through to the twentieth and last in 1982. Although I do not myself possess a complete set of the little blue booklets comprising The University of Sydney Australian Language Research Centre Occasional Papers, I will list them all here, as they are on the inside back cover of the last to appear, though drawing attention to the fact that, as well as no.1, no.s 7, 8 and 11 do not deal with vocabulary, but are included here for the sake of completeness:

1 Russell, G.H. An introduction. 1964. 8 pp.

2 Robert D. Eagleson, Australianisms in early migrant handbooks, 1788-1826. 1964. 16 pp.

3 W.S. Ramson, The currency of Aboriginal words in Australian English. 1964. 15 pp.

4 Robert D. Eagleson, Australianisms in early migrant handbooks, 1827-1830 . 1965. 16 pp.

5 J.S. Gunn, The terminology of the shearing industry, Part I: A-L. 1965. 36 pp.

6 J.S. Gunn, The terminology of the shearing industry, Part II: M-Z. 1965. 40 pp.

7 J.R.L. Bernard, Rates of utterance in Australian dialect groups . 1965. 20 pp.

8 A.I. Jones, An outline of word phonology of Australian English 1966. 18 pp.

9 Elizabeth A. Cooke, Susan E. MacCallum and Robert D. Eagleson, Fresh evidence from early goldmining publications, 1851-1860. 1966. 28 pp.

10 Elizabeth A. Cooke, Susan E. MacCallum and Robert D. Eagleson, Early goldmining terms and popular collocations. 1966. 27 pp.

11 Robert D. Eagleson, Bibliography of writings on Australian English. 1967. 19pp.

12 Robert D. Eagleson and Ian McKie, The terminology of Australian National Football, Part I: A-C. 1968. 24 pp.

13 Robert D. Eagleson and Ian McKie, The terminology of Australian National Football, Part II: D-Q. 1968. 27 pp.

14 Robert D. Eagleson and Ian McKie, The terminology of Australian National Football, Part III: P-Z. 1969. 26 pp. (Yes, P-Z, not S-Z, as one would have expected.)

15 J.S. Gunn, An opal terminology. 1971. 54 pp.

16 J.S Gunn,Distribution of shearing terms in New SouthWales. 1971. 20 pp.

17 J.S. Gunn and B. Levy, A word history of bushranging. 1980. 64 pp.

18 R. Langker, Flash in New South Wales, 1788-1850. 1980. 60 pp.

19 R. Langker, The vocabulary of convictism in New SouthWales, 1788-1850  1981. 83 pp.

20 J.A. Sharwood, Vocabulary of the Australian dried vinefruits industry . 1982. 44 pp.

Although not apparent from the listing at the back of this last booklet (where, incidentally, the word vine in its own title is omitted), it contains not only on pp.36f. a bibliography of “General dictionaries and studies related to Australian terminology” and on pp.38-63 a very large bibliography of “Works relating to terms employed in the dried fruits industry”, but also before the eponymous article by Sharwood, an article on pp.1-10 by J.S. Gunn titled “Filling the gaps in Australian English studies”. We learn here from Gunn that the Australian Language Research Centre “several years ago had to put aside any idea of producing a commercial dictionary or similar major work of its own”, but he pleads for the research to continue and inter alia to look especially at regional variation in the vocabulary, for the accepted wisdom had been that Australian English was uniform throughout the continent. Clearly the output of the Centre had been reasonably prolific in the first eight years of its existence, then followed almost a decade where nothing was published, after which there was a flurry of publication from 1980 to 1982, and then nothing more. In the 1990s an attempt was made by Professor Margaret Clunies-Ross – then and still the incumbent of Sydney’s slightly renamed Chair of English Language and Early English Literature – though herself a specialist in Old Norse studies rather than Australian English, to revive the Centre, and Dr Gary Simes was elected its President, but he was working very much on his own, and when his A dictionary of Australian underworld slang appeared in 1993 it was with Oxford University Press Australia in Melbourne, not the Centre at Sydney.

What had happened to the great plans and energy of the early 1960s? Perhaps the main problem for the Sydney Department of English and its Research Centre was that Alex Mitchell had been appointed in 1965 to be Vice-Chancellor of the newly established Macquarie University in north-western Sydney and Arthur Delbridge followed him there to become the foundation Professor of English Language. While Mitchell’s new duties precluded his continuing with his earlier research, Delbridge was still keen on the idea that Australia should have a dictionary of its own rather than relying on British dictionaries such as the Oxford in its various manifestations. He had, however, given up the idea that it should be a dictionary only of Australianisms, particularly because, as I once heard him say, so often when he and his collaborators thought they had an exclusively Australian English word they subsequently discovered that it occurred in some other variety of English too. Instead he was keen that it should be a dictionary of all the English to be encountered in Australia used by Australians, and if it happened to be a word such as bludger found nowhere else, then it would not be labelled as such. At last, in 1981, that dictionary appeared as The Macquarie dictionary (St Leonards, NSW: Macquarie Library Pty. Ltd. 2049 pp.) (Illustration 5), prefaced by a number of essays: the “Introduction” by the prominent Canberra specialist in Australian history, Professor Manning Clark, Arthur Delbridge’s “The need for an Australian dictionary”, “Australian pronunciation” by John Bernard, who had also followed Mitchell from Sydney to Macquarie, Bill Ramson’s two contributions on his area of expertise “The vocabulary of Australian English” and “The historical study of Australian English”, and “Words and the world” by one of the newer generation of Australian English researchers, David Blair, who had also come across from Sydney to Macquarie and who continues till the present to be a front runner in the promotion of Australian English studies.

Illustration 5

The Macquarie was reprinted with a supplement in 1982, and a revised edition appeared in 1985, another in 1987, with the Second Edition appearing in 1991, but now without the introductory essays, and the Third Edition in 1997, containing encyclopedia-style entries involving personal names and place names; the revised Third Edition was published in 2001 and republished that year in two volumes in slip cases as the, eminently collectible, Federation Edition with an introductory essay by the Australian poet Les Murray titled “Australian English”. (The dictionary is now also available on CD-ROM.)

There has been also a plethora of reduced or specialised versions of the Macquarie, such as, in rather arbitrary order: the The little Macquarie dictionary (1983), The budget Macquarie dictionary (1985), The Macquarie concise dictionary (1982), later republished as The compact Macquarie dictionary (1984), Macquarie pocket dictionary (1998), Macquarie essential dictionary (1999), Macquarie everyday dictionary (1990), Macquarie file dictionary (1987), which has holes punched in it for fitting it into a ring binder, The Macquarie thumb easy dictionary (1983), Macquarie microdictionary (1985), which is, in fact, distributed through the four volumes of Jan Roberts’s book Australian English (North Ryde, NSW: Methuen Australia; vol.1, pp.289-300; vol.2, pp.285-296; vol.3, pp.293-303; vol.4, pp.331-342). And there are the versions for younger Australians: Macquarie junior dictionary (1985), The Macquarie school dictionary (1995), Macquarie learners dictionary (1999), Macquarie student dictionary (Milton, Qld: Jacaranda Press, 1991), Macquarie study dictionary (Sydney: John Wiley and Sons Australia, 1998), The Macquarie children’s dictionary (1983), and Macquarie little kids dictionary (1998).

In 1984 there also appeared The Macquarie thesaurus, whichwent through most of the same adaptations and permutations of title as the dictionary, though I will not go through them all here, for reasons of space. It may suffice to say that in 1991 there appeared Macquarie dictionary and thesaurus. New combined budget edition, and in the same year Macquarie pocket dictaurus (“dictaurus = a unique reference work in which each entry provides the information of both a dictionary and a thesaurus”).

There have also been other ancillary dictionaries from the Macquarie stable: Aussie talk. The Macquarie dictionary of Australian colloquialisms (McMahons Point, NSW: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd; 1984; xi + 353; d/w), revised and republished in 1988 as The Macquarie dictionary of Australian colloquial language with the subtitle Aussie talk; and there areThe Macquarie dictionary of new words (1990), the Macquarie dictionary of motoring (1986), and the Macquarie dictionary of trees and shrubs (1986), based on E.E. Lord and J.H. Willis’s Trees for Australian gardens (Melbourne/Sydney: Lothian Books, 5th ed., 1982).

There are other publications too that I will not enumerate here as they are peripheral to our interest, but it can be seen that the Macquarie dictionary has burgeoned into an industry in its own right in the form of the Macquarie University Dictionary Research Centre with its business name The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. Arthur Delbridge remained editor-in-chief of the Dictionary until he recently retired from that position and handed the reins over to Dr Colin Yallop.

Not all of the Sydney researchers “defected” to Macquarie. Bill Ramson (under whom I did a course in Old Norse, in which I failed to shine, back in 1957 at Sydney) moved to the Australian National University in Canberra, where he kept alive the original idea of a dictionary of Australianisms, which finally bore fruit in the form of the Australian national dictionary. A dictionary of Australianisms on historical principles (Melbourne: Oxford University Press. xvi + 814 pp.), published in 1988, appropriately enough Australia’s bicentennial year of course. The AND like Morris’s Austral English follows the principles developed for the Oxford English dictionary.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University is currently preparing a second edition of the dictionary under Ramson’s successor as Director, Dr Bruce Moore, who on the basis of his experience as a lecturer in the Department of English at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Duntroon, in the Australian Capital Territory (a college of the University of New South Wales) published in 1993 his very specialised dictionary A lexicon of cadet language, Royal Military College, Duntroon, in the period 1983-1985 (Canberra: Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University; xxx +459 pp.). It is at many points not for the linguistically fainthearted. (Incidentally, B. Cowham had compiled and privately printed in 1987 Legolingo: the cadet’s language (Duntroon, ACT: Australian Defence Force Academy), but, although Moore mentions R.J. Rayward’s 1988 BA Honours thesis, published in 1989 as More than a mere bravo: Duntroon slang 1930-1980 (Occasional Paper no. 14, English Department, University College Australian Defence Force Academy (Campbell, ACT)), he does not mention Cowham.)

The Associate Editor of the AND, Joan Hughes, published in 1989 Australian words and their origins (Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia), which continued life in 1992 as The concise Australian national dictionary.

Meanwhile the overseas publishers of dictionaries had been trying to adapt their products to the Australian market. We have already seen how Websters had brought out an Australasian supplement way back in 1898, and in 1912 Macmillan of London published A modern dictionary of the English language with Australasian supplement, and in 1914 there appeared, also based on an American dictionary, Australian supplement. World’s standard dictionary containing a chronological history of Australia; census gazetteer for Australia and New Zealand; words, phrases, locutions and usages peculiar to English-speaking people in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand together with superb embellishments in rich colors, maps, coat of arms and flags (“A. Hensley Smith & Company/distributors for Australia/79 Pitt Street/Sydney, Australia”, 87 pp., with the dictionary section pp.1-32) (Illustration 6).

Even before the Macquarie first appeared, integrated Australianversions of British dictionaries began to appear, the first I know of being, in 1976, The Australian pocket Oxford dictionary (Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia; xxiv + 975 pp. [+ 17 pp. for Notes]) edited by G.K.W. Johnston and based on The pocket Oxford dictionary of current English; at my last count ithad reached its 8th edition. In the meantime there have been The Australian Oxford minidictionary (1986), previously published in 1984 as The Australian schoolmate dictionary for secondary school students, which was based onThe Oxford minidictionary of 1981, The Australian Oxford dictionary. New Budget edition (West End, Qld: Herron Publications, 1988), and The Australian Oxford dictionary (1999) edited by Bruce Moore, who as we saw above is editing the next edition of the Australian national dictionary. And there is a range of dictionaries and thesauruses from this publisher that do not have the word Oxford in their title, e.g. The Australian study dictionary/thesaurus (Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia, 1995) based on The new Oxford school dictionary of 1990 and The Australian primary dictionary of 1994. Both Collins and Heinemann have published a similar range of Australian dictionaries which space does not permit me to list.

 (To be continued in the next issue.)


1 Notes and sketches from New South Wales, during a residence in that colony from 1839 to 1844, London 1844; cited after Arnold L. Haskell, Waltzing Matilda: a background to Australia (Readers Union by arrangement with Adam & Charles Black, Melbourne: Robertson and Mullen Ltd., 1943; xii + 266) p.32, who, however, mistakenly gives 1849 as the date of publication. Haskell himself comments: “Snuffle is admirable”, and proceeds to be quite laudatory of “Australian [even if] it is not yet a recognized language”. The verso of Haskell’s title page states that this is the Australian Edition, 1943, and below that comes the explanation: “All copies of these books ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which were printed in London for the Readers’ Union, as per details reproduced below, were lost at sea. To save further delay and possible loss, this book,…, was reproduced in Melbourne by Morris & Walker Pty. Ltd. by the Photo. Litho. Process for Robertson & Mullens Ltd. Melbourne.”

2 A large number of these 20th century “opinions” are quoted, often unfortuntely without source reference, in A.G. Mitchell, The pronunciation of English in Australia (Sydney/London: Angus & Robertson, 1946), pp. 63-68. For others see Sidney J. Baker, The Australian language (Sydney/London: Angus & Robertson, 1945), pp.321-324.

3 This article is reprinted as G.W. Turner, “Samuel McBurney’s newspaper article on colonial pronunciation” AUMLA. Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 27 (1967), pp.81-85.

4 This was not as such an association for the promotion of Australian English, but an Australian association for the promotion of English, essentially in its standard form. The lecture also appeared in 1940 as a two-part article with the briefer title ”Australian English” in the recently established literary journal Southerly 1(3), pp.11-13 and 2(1), pp.35-37.

5 We primary school pupils at the Balmain Demonstration School in the 1940s were regularly rehearsed in sentences such as “Pooah Pa pours water on the floor” to inculcate the fact that “poor” did not rhyme with “pour” and “floor”, but for us it continued to do so outside the classroom

6 1958 as the probable date of publication can be inferred from the paragraph at the bottom of p.112: “Following a careful examination of speech education in schools in the state, an outline for a Secondary Speech-Syllabus Handbook was prepared in 1954. During the last four years most aspects of speech education have been examined in detail by the Committee, prior to the publication of this Handbook.”

7 In the mid-1990s I arranged to have the original tapes of the survey, which were deteriorating in a cupboard in an unairconditioned area of the university, moved to the airconditioned premises of the Language Centre. In the meantime, thanks to a considerable sum of money having been made available by the university and with the agreement of Mitchell and Delbridge, these tapes have all been digitised, so that their contents have been saved for future researchers to work on. The survey is thought to have been the largest linguistic survey of its kind ever undertaken anywhere in the world at the time it was carried out.


 Illustration 6



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