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AUSTRALEX Newsletter 14

April, 1996


Style Council 96

Australianisms of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were among the many points of interest discussed at the Style Council conference held in Adelaide, March 1-3. Lexicographer Anne Knight examined a number of terms peculiar to South Australia, including those which preserve local placenames, sometimes unexpectedly: in kangaroo furze and kangaroo thorn we see Kangaroo Island abbreviated.

The South Australian wine and food terms discussed by Valmai Hankel of the South Australian Library were less distinctive of the region, though "Quarkstinkerkäse" may be an original. The South Australian pidgin English recorded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century also proved to consist of few terms not shared with other Australian pidgins, according to Peter Mühlhäusler of the University of Adelaide.

Other presenters highlighted new trends emerging in Australian culture and society in the 1990s. The Style Council theme "Language environments" provided a superordinate for the vocabulary associated with the Green movement, presented by Ken Dyer and Mia Stephens of the Mawson Environment Centre at the University of Adelaide.; and the vocabulary of the "electronic environment", where the presenters were Anne A'Herran and Bryce Moore. New or newly circulating terms emerged in the ensuing discussions, including vanilla, middleware and POTS (plain old telephone system).

New developments in style were discussed following Natasha Cho's paper on the house styles of five Australian commercial publishers, and again in open forum, led by Lindsay Mackerras who has recently been appointed as Editor of the Sixth Edition of the Australian Government Publishing Service Style Manual.

Yet other aspects of language discussed were -- as befits a Style Council staged during Writers Week -- the scripting of dialogue (what makes authentic dialogue); and the expressive aspects of AUSLAN (Australia's own signing system of the deaf).

The closing address was given by Tom McArthur, editor of English Today and of the Oxford Companion to the English Language. In an erudite and entertaining paper, Tom spoke of the role of the printed word in sustaining "standard English" on a worldwide basis at the end of the twentieth century.

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Citations to Die For #2

Riveting evidence of progress in the language - the second in a series. This time we get a glorious three-pack, courtesy of the NSW Royal Commission into Police Corruption; and one from cyberspace that's a little more tasty than usual.

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the laugh, the rent, and the Darlo drop

We have heard new terms during the parade of corrupt officers before Justice Wood: the laugh (taking bribes), the rent (dividing the proceeds between officers), and the Darlo drop (officers throwing a person in custody to the ceiling and letting him crash to the floor)

Sydney Morning Herald 5 August 1995, Spectrum 4A

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From the Jargon File: spam : v.t. [from "Monty Python's Flying Circus"] cause a newsgroup to be flooded with irrelevant or inappropriate messages... Over in net.abuse land, they define spamming as essentially identical, but not crossposted, articles to more than about 20 groups. Such as telephone sex ads, for example. Velveeta is massive crossposting, and is not viewed as being quite as evil because it doesn't fill up disk space as quickly, I presume.

alt.usage.english newsgroup posting, 3 November 1995

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A Publishing Landmark

The KAMILAROI/GAMILARAAY DICTIONARY, WEB EDITION was officially launched on Friday 16th Feb 1996 at Moree NSW. It is the WWW version of Peter Austin's 1993 A Reference Dictionary of Gamilaraay, northern New South Wales. (Bundoora, Vic: La Trobe University Department of Linguistics) and is located at and justifiably claims to be "the WWW's first page- formatted hypertext dictionary".

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Probably not a Publishing Landmark

Suspect's Guide
to Channels 19, 17 and 21
A dictionary of American truck driver jargon on the C.B. radio

Jeff Marck
"The Suspect"
Copyright: BNT Publishing, Box 1372, Saipan MP 96950 U.S.A.

The author is a doctoral student in Linguistics, RSPAS, ANU, where his thesis is "Polynesian Language and Culture History". By contrast this publication draws on his years as a long-haul truck driver in the USA. About 550 words are defined or cross-referenced.

From the preface: "Words often come in groups of two to five which must be learned all at one time as they all have to do with each other. By looking up the whole group you will get a better picture of what each one means. These kinds of definitions will not bring you in a circle back to the same place. They build on each other. The two most basic words are BEAR and TRACTOR. The book tends to expand outward from those words."

The author comments: "the examples are verbatim from monitoring the C.B. [radio] and reflect a variety of dialects... such as the difference between - n and - ng. Some truck drivers do pronounce their final - ng's and I just wrote them down as I heard them."

Copies of the book are $10 postpaid in Australia, US$10 postpaid (first class) for addresses in the United States, and US$15 postpaid (air mail) for other countries. Payment must be made by MasterCard or Visa. To order hardcopy, send e- mail to <>.

The vocabulary, and ordering information, is available on the World Wide Web at URL

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Questions you've probably never asked

Here are some of the bigger questions of our times - see how many of them are lexically based:

Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Why are there locks on the doors of supermarkets that are open 24 hours per day and 365 days per year?

How do they make teflon stick to the pan?

Why is it that when you transport something by car it's a shipment, but when you transport something by ship it's a cargo?

Why are they called apartments when they are stuck together?

What do freedom fighters fight if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire?

Why are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes?

Why can't they make the whole plane out of the same substance as that indestructible black box?

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1996 Annual General Meeting

We've noticed that people are going to be very busy later this year preparing papers for the Linguistics Institute and the Linguistics Society Conference in Canberra. So we've judged it better to leave a full meeting with conference papers until 1997, and meet only for "business" this year. The Executive has decided that the best time for our AGM is during the ALS Conference in July. We are going to make it a lunchtime session, on Saturday 6 July from 1.30 to 2.00.


1. Apologies
2. Minutes of 1994 general meeting
3. Business arising
4. President's report
5. Treasurer's report
6. Election of officers
7. 1997 conference
8. Any other business

Nominations for Executive positions (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, up to 3 Committee Members) are welcome - please send them, in any form you wish, to Colin Yallop or David Blair any time between now and the AGM. Our practice is that the current Vice President is the President-elect. We also find it helpful for the President and the Secretary to come from the same city or institution; and since Mary Laughren , our President-elect, is Brisbane-based, all nominations of Secretaries with 4000 postcodes will be gratefully received!.

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National Place Names Project

The National Place Names Project is slowly but surely getting off the ground in its attempt to begin a major dictionary of Australian place names. The NPNP will be holding its first national conference within the Melbourne conference of the Australian Historical Association, on 16 July. If you'd like to know more, the first issue of the NPNP Bulletin has just been issued. Contact:

Bill Noble, 2/1 Aaron Place, WAHROONGA NSW 2076. Tel: 02 487 3909

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The History of Australian English Project

Emeritus Professor A G Mitchell continues to lead the HAE project, with the current activity being a series of monthly seminars at Macquarie on aspects of historical geography and demography as they relate to language development. If you're not already on the mailing list but would like to be, let David Blair know.

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We Welcome New Members

Since our last Newsletter, we have welcomed some new members to our list. Our international connections in South Africa have been strengthened by two new members. We welcome the National Terminology Services of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. Our contact there is Dr Marietta Alberts, the head of Systems Development and Research. And Professor D J Prinsloo of the Department of African Languages, University of Pretoria, has written to us. He is a member of EURALEX, DSNA and Afrilex (our newly established sister association in Africa). We also welcome Shannon Mewton of the School of Linguistics at La Trobe University.

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Useful Software

David Nash recommends the following item - he says that the advice in the manual would be particularly useful to people working on indigenous language vocabularies; it incorporates material from Andy Pawley's 1993 dictionary-making workshops at ANU.

Coward, David F and Charles E Grimes. 1995. Making dictionaries: a guide to lexicography and the Multi-Dictionary Formatter. ix+234pp. Waxhaw: Summer Institute of Linguistics. ISBN 1- 55671- 011- 9. With disk: Version 1.0. February 1995.

"Designed as a companion to the Linguist's SHOEBOX program, MDF simplifies the work of formatting and printing dictionaries and reversed finderlists. The accompanying manual... provides over 200 examples of how to structure lexical data... from a standard format database and how MDF formats that information for printing. Theoretical aspects of dictionary-making are presented in a practical way." -- announced in SIL's Notes on computing 14.2 (March-April 1995), 28- 31. Notes on computing 14.4 (July 1995), 31- 35 has an evaluation.

Requires IBM-XT or compatible, 640k RAM, MS-DOS 3.3 or higher. Assumes availability of Microsoft Word for DOS v5.0, v5.5, v6.0 or Word for Windows v2.0 or v6.0

Multi-Dictionary Formatter (MDF) software and manual (only available in DOS format) is US$28. Airmail about US$25. Sea mail about US$4; takes about 2 months from order. Orders accepted via email.

Attn. Customer Services <>
International Computer Services
Box 248, JAARS Road
Waxhaw NC 28173-0248
ph +1-704-8436085
fax +1-704-8436500

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Macquarie DRC Seminars

The DRC at Macquarie is holding a series of seminars on lexicographical matters. The next seminar scheduled is by Margaret Hennessy (University of NSW) on The language of dictionary definitions. For local readers, the details are:

Friday 10 May 2.30 pm Room W6B 286

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Corpus Linguistics Colloquium

The Macquarie DRC organised a Colloquium on corpus linguistics in December. The day was very successful, with 40 or 50 participants providing stimulating discussion. Papers included:

  • Pam Peters: The grammar of speech
  • Wendy Young (Macq): Preparing a corpus for grammatical tagging
  • Robert Dale (Microsoft): Corpus-based strategies for referring expression generation
  • Rhonwen Bowen (Göteborg): Corpus-based study of noun complementation in English
  • Peter Collins (UNSW): Corpus-based study of the deictic-presentation construction in English
  • James Lambert (Macq Dict): The structure and representativeness of corpora
  • Jennifer Thurstun & Di Simmons (Macq): Concordance-based support for learning the vocabulary of academic English
  • Nic Witton (Macq): Demonstration of a catalogue to a German corpus for language teaching and research

Ruqaiya Hasan had prepared a paper on The grammar in the lexicon, but illness has delayed the presentation until a later date.

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Dr Julia Miller

Street Address

Dr Julia Miller
School of Education
The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005


T: 08 8313 4721

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