It is the dictionary of Australian English, expressive of all classes and of our multicultural society. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with it because of my frequent reference to it in my word-nerdy posts.
Today, though, the editors excelled themselves.
On the day when Facebook cut off access to all Australian news channels— sadly including sources of information relied upon by particular social groups such as Indigenous communities, domestic violence support groups for women and families, and local information networks— as a result of a disagreement with the Australian government over market share and finances, the Macquarie tweeted that Australians have been zucked.
An obvious play on the F-bomb and Zuckerberg, it’s a clever new portmanteau word.
A portmanteau word is one created by blending two existing words or parts of words to create a new word. The name comes from a portmanteau, which is a type of suitcase that opens into two halves. This dates back to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’:
We use portmanteau words every day, without many of us realising how they were created:
Botox — botulism toxin
Brexit — British exit from the European Union
Bollywood — Bombay and Hollywood
Email — electronic mail
Fortnight — fourteen nights, so two weeks
Sitcom — situation comedy
Webinar — web seminar
English is actually full of these words, as it’s a form of wordplay that has been around for hundreds of years.
There’s a lot of controversy about celebrating Australia Day on January 26, and with good reason.
Some Aussies — in all honesty, mostly white ones – argue that there is nothing wrong with celebrating our country on that day as we do.
They would most likely be quite surprised to know that Australia Day wasn’t celebrated nationally until 1935: it’s not something we’ve been doing since 1788. Even more surprising would be the fact that it’s only been a public holiday since 1994 – not even thirty years.
A growing number of Aussies feel conflicted about the date. They are coming to understand that, as it is, it is a celebration that causes grief and hurt to the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. For them, it is ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Day of Mourning’, which is a very fair call.
January 26 marks the anniversary of the date in 1788 when the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour, set up camp, and began the first British colony in Australia. It is impossible to condense the history of the nation since then into just one sentence, but it’s fair to say that the story is characterised by dispossession, racism, violence, massacre and oppression toward the Indigenous people of the country. That is why celebrating that date is so offensive to them. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is either a. extremely white privileged, b. not trying hard enough or c. both.
It is common understanding that if one is doing something that hurt someone else, and if it is in that person’s power to stop, I should stop doing it. Even if there is an apology, the only way to prove the apology means anything at all is to refrain from doing it again. The only way to heal a damaged relationship is to change one’s ways. This is as true on a national level as it is for an individual.
There is no reason why we can’t change the date for celebrating our nation. There’s a lot to celebrate, but we can also do much better than we have in the past.
Some people suggest that we should celebrate Australia Day on January 1st – the anniversary of Federation. It’s a good idea, despite the complaints that people will be hung over from New Year’s Eve parties the night before. That’s a choice for each individual to make – but wouldn’t less drunkenness be a good thing anyway?
Alternatively, I suggest that the Australian government should commit to and sign a Treaty with the Indigenous people, as they have been pleading for the government to do for years. This Treaty, made in collaboration with Indigenous people, would acknowledge the past, shape the future, and enable us to move on together in a spirit of reconciliation and healing.
The date on which that Treaty was established and signed should be the new date for Australia Day. We could even call it Treaty Day, or Australian Treaty Day, to put the focus on the relationship instead of the painful memories of the past.
I’m not Indigenous, and I do not pretend to share their experiences or speak for anyone else.
I am, however, a History teacher who seeks to teach Australian history with empathy and awareness of the experiences of Australia’s First Nations people, and to encourage my students to understand that our nation’s story began long before 1788. I am an Australian who loves my country, but also one who is deeply sorry for the suffering of the Indigenous people, past and present.
As such, I cannot help but think that either one of those two ideas would have to be better than what we have now.
I will not be attending or watching any Australia Day celebrations tomorrow. Instead, I intend to mark the day by signing the Uluru Statement From The Heart, which is a call to Australians to rally together to achieve constitutional recognition for our First Nations peoples and to establish an Indigenous voice to Parliament.
It’s high time we did better, Australia. Let’s change the date, and move forward in a common spirit of reconciliation and healing.
Australia Day: We Can Do Better #changethedate #AustraliaDay
My comment yesterday that I was playing songs full of snow even though I live in Australia generated some interest in what Christmas is like here, so I thought I might share a little about how Australians celebrate Christmas.
Many of our traditions are the same as everyone else’s. We sing the same songs, send Christmas cards, decorate with Christmas trees, tinsel, wreaths and lights, and hope that Santa will visit and leave us gifts. We have Christmas music in all the shops and soppy Christmas movies on TV.
There are a few key differences though.
Christmas happens in summer here. When we sing ‘Let it Snow’ and ‘White Christmas’ it’s wishful thinking— usually because it’s ridiculously hot outside. My little Canadian spruce is decked with tinsel and fairy lights, but it will probably never see snow– at Christmas, or at any other time of year.
Because it is summer, kids are on their long break between one school year and the next. Term 4 finishes sometime in the middle of December, and the kids return to school sometime toward the end of January.
This gives people the opportunity to more easily travel longer distances to visit family, or to spend Christmas near the beach or in other desired locations. While this certainly happens in other countries, Australians have made a time-honoured national tradition of ‘going away for the Christmas Holidays’.
Some of the traditional Christmas songs like Jingle Bells have been rewritten to reflect Australian conditions, and we also have some of our own songs that probably aren’t sung anywhere else, except for maybe New Zealand. Many of these are less well-known now than they used to be, partly because our culture is significantly led by American and British influences, partly because their lyrics and subjects are outdated, and mostly because they were ridiculously hard to sing.
Many of us still have traditional Christmas food like turkey and ham, but we’ll often have salads on the side instead of hot vegetables. Some people barbecue steaks and other meats instead, while others opt for seafood for Christmas dinner. The traditional Christmas pudding is often accompanied or even replaced by cold desserts like cheesecake, trifle or iconic Aussie desserts like pavlova or chocolate ripple cake.
It’s still a day for family and friends, but lots of Australians spend Christmas or Boxing Day gathered at the beach or by the pool. Christmas meals are often eaten outdoors, hopefully under cover or in the shade. It’s not unusual for Aussies to enjoy their post-Christmas-dinner nap in the cool of the air-conditioning or in front of the fan.
One of my absolute favourite Australian Christmas traditions is Carols by Candlelight. Crowds gather outdoors, often picnic style, and sing Christmas songs together. There are local events all over the country, but there is also the nationally televised showbiz charity event held in Melbourne on Christmas Eve every year. Santa usually makes an appearance, as do various celebrities of TV and the music industry who, supported by a band, an orchestra, and premium choirs, entertain and delight the nation.
Because of Australia’s longitude, we start our Christmas Day while most of the world is still full of anticipation on Christmas Eve. Only New Zealand and some small Polynesian nations of the Pacific Ocean start their Christmas before we do.
While the rest of the world is waking up to Christmas morning, Australians can often be found gathering outdoors again for a game of cricket in the back yard, or another dip in the pool or at the beach.
On the 26th, many Australians will tune in to the Boxing Day Test Match— also cricket— on the TV or radio, broadcast from the Melbourne Cricket Ground where up to 100 000 dedicated fans attend the game in person for each of the five days scheduled for the match. Don’t let that surprise you – we’re a sports-mad nation, and the cricket lovers among us are as dedicated as any.
After all the excitement of Christmas, things settle down for a day or two before we get the barbecues out and gather together again to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Today– November 11th– is Remembrance Day. It’s also called Armistice Day.
It is a day of remembrance of the fact that at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month– November 11th, 1918– the Armistice that brought an end to World War 1 was signed.
Back then, they called World War I ‘The Great War’ and ‘The War to End All Wars’. It was called ‘The Great War’ because of its size and scale, not because it was good in any way. And, being the overachievers that humans are, we have since proven that it didn’t prevent any further wars at all.
Today is a day for acknowledging the devastation, loss of life, and tragedy of the war not just for Australia, or the Allies, but for all the nations involved.
It is a day for remembering the fallen soldiers, and those who came back broken and maimed. It is a day for remembering those who mourned them.
It is a day for giving thanks for their legacy.
Their soldiers’ commitment to fighting was anything but selfish: they fought for their country. Their service and sacrifice was for the sake of defending and preserving our freedoms.
Today, let us contemplate the horrors of war and how we can avoid them in the future. Let us reflect on those who gave their lives in loyal service of their country.
Lest we forget.
Remembrance Day #RemembranceDay #LestWeForget #blogpost
Elections in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada are more straightforward than those conducted in the USA. Here, the winner of the popular vote in each electorate wins the seat. The leader of the winning party becomes the Prime Minister.
American elections, on the other hand, are more complex and remain somewhat baffling to many of us.
I found this page to be full of clear, concise explanations for all those who, like me, are still wondering exactly how American elections work.
An open letter to Josh Frydenberg, Federal Treasurer and MP for Cooyong:
You have some nerve. Your outburst in Parliament yesterday was way out of line.
Yes, mistakes were made early on in Victoria’s management of COVID. And they got cleaned up. We’ve actually done a brilliant job, which you didn’t even acknowledge. But that isn’t the part of your speech to which I, and many other Victorian teachers, take particular exception.
While the rest of the House was congratulating the people of Victoria on crushing the curve and bringing the numbers back to zero, you chose to be ungrateful. That little tantrum of yours would make a two year old proud.
Your assertion that your children missed out on six months of schooling is highly offensive to every teacher in this fine state who has gone way beyond the call of professionalism and duty of care to ensure that our students did not miss a single thing that we were able to provide for them.
Were my colleagues and I merely dreaming all the extra work we put into setting up online classrooms, doing extra courses in online safety and classroom management, monitoring our students’ wellbeing and mental health, in addition to all the usual planning, preparation and teaching we have been doing all year? Did we imagine the eye fatigue and headaches from being in online classrooms all day, doing all our marking and reporting online, meeting with colleagues and conferencing with parents online?
You have been able to do your job almost completely normally all year.
We have had to completely reinvent ours, while at the same time being required to switch from face to face teaching to online classrooms, then back, and back again, sometimes at only a few days’ notice. We’ve done it without tantrums, without complaints, and without pointing fingers at people who were also trying to do their best in otherwise uncharted territory.
Victorian teachers have proven to be dedicated, resilient, and incredibly versatile this year.
And I will tell you one thing that is absolutely certain: the students at my school did not miss six months of school. They had their full timetable, every school day, complete with teachers and teachers aides, differentiated lessons, roll call, and individual help whenever they needed it.
Don’t be firing your nasty little aspersions at Victorian schools and the 100% committed teachers in them, Mr Frydenberg, even by inference.
We do not deserve that. We are exhausted, our patience has been pushed to the limit, and we are still going. We are not in the mood for your petulant tantrums.
It’s high time you gave credit where credit is due, learned some gratitude and grace, and got on with doing your job while we continue to do ours.
An Open Letter to Josh Frydenberg @JoshFrydenberg #TeacherLife #VictoriaTheHeroState #howdareyou
It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.
Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)
Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.
It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.
I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.
So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!
In wilful defiance of TLC’s advice, we spent today chasing waterfalls. Thankfully, though, we were visiting real waterfalls rather than metaphorical ones.
It was great to get out in the sunshine and fresh air, and to enjoy a change of scenery after months of social restrictions and another term of teaching from home.
I visited both Nigretta Falls and Wannon Falls near Hamilton, Victoria, with my bestie in July, but my husband hadn’t been there before, so it was nice to be able to visit with him.
Western Victoria has had a lot of rain the past couple of weeks, so the falls were both far more spectacular than they were in July. The volume of water at Nigretta Falls actually made it look completely different than it did just a few months ago. Wannon Falls had more water, but still looked much the same.
While watching the water cascading over Wannon Falls and flowing away, I spotted one resilient little tree growing in the river. It is barely visible in the bottom corner of the image above, but it’s there.
I thought about how the river just washes around it and keeps going, but rather than being washed away, that little tree stands its ground. The rocks around it may give it some protection and reduce the drag of the water, but even so, it must have very good roots.
It occurred to me that I am a bit like that tree.
This year has been a powerful and relentless river, and the last four months in particular have swollen that river with a lot of extra rain. I’ve learned to stand my ground and, to purposefully allow many of the pressures of life to just pass me by. I’ve had to. My priority has been to just hang on and try to not get completely overwhelmed and washed away.
Chances are, without the rocks around me, I might have been broken or got washed away. I am so thankful for those people who have supported and protected me. I’m thankful for the powerful roots and protective rocks of faith, family and friends who have held me and sheltered me, each one of them helping to deflect the water in their own way.
Hopefully, the floodwaters will recede soon and both that little tree and I can start to grow and flourish rather than merely surviving.
Tmesis— pronounced teh-MEE-sis— is an unusual word that many people will never have heard of, even though it’s the name for something we do frequently and quite naturally.
Tmesis is the name given to that linguistic behaviour by which we divide a word and insert another word into the middle. In the 21st century, the inserted word is often a swear word, but it doesn’t have to be.
We do it to add emphasis and increase the strength of what we’re saying.
The Ancient Greek word temnein meant ‘to cut’, and from that came the word tmesis, which meant ‘cutting’. It refers to the cutting or division of the first word in order to insert the second.
The practice is centuries old. There are examples of it in Old Irish and Scandinavian poetry, although the earliest written examples of it being used in English only date back to the 1500s.
Shakespeare used tmesis in a number of his plays:
“This is not Romeo, he’s some other where.” — Romeo and Juliet
“How heinous ever it be” — Richard II
“That man – how dearly ever parted.” — Troilus and Cressida
Tmesis also exists in the poetry of John Donne:
“In what torn ship soever I embark, That ship shall be my emblem, What seas soever swallow me, that flood Shall be to me an emblem of thy blood.” — Hymn to Christ
From these examples, it is clear that the device has always been used to strengthen the idea or emotion being communicated, which is exactly how it’s still used today.
In Australia, where we seem to love a good swear word and the power it gives our expressions, tmesis is so common that it seems to me to be part of our linguistic identity. Inserting a term such as ‘flaming” or ‘flipping’, or one’s preferred swear word, into words and phrases is a standard part of our speech. From “abso-flaming-lutely’ to “no freaking way!”, Australians have made tmesis their own without ever knowing that it was a literary device or that it has a name.