Youse wouldn’t believe it: a new book charts the 11-year making of a ‘people’s dictionary’ for Australia



Even the dictionary entry defining lamingtons proved controversial …
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Roslyn Petelin, The University of Queensland

Review: More Than Words: The Making of the Macquarie Dictionary by Pat Manser (Pan Macmillan)

In 1973 Pat Manser answered an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald seeking a research assistant to work on phonetic transcriptions for a dictionary of Australian English.

Now, nearly 50 years later, she has published her monumental account of the making of this dictionary, which in the words of Thomas Keneally, “paid the Antipodean tongue the great compliment of taking it seriously”.

If you’re a word aficionado, you’ll love this book. I could not put it down until I had read through to the end of the final section, which contains the wonderful launch presentation speeches for all eight editions of the Macquarie Dictionary.




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The beginnings

John Bernard, a chemist who was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of English and Linguistics at Macquarie University in 1966, had published a paper in Southerly in June 1962 about the need for a dictionary of Australian English. He argued that we need

a dictionary of our own because our idiom, usage, invention and especially pronunciation are sufficiently different from those of other Englishes.

In December 1969, Brian Clouston, who had founded Jacaranda Press in Brisbane, agreed to fund a dictionary that would be

aggressively Australian, not to be encyclopedic, not to be illustrated, to be in one volume, and to be ready in two years.

Bernard’s colleague at the university, Professor Arthur Delbridge, was appointed chair of the editorial committee to compile the book. He argued for a “people’s dictionary” that would “hold up a mirror directly to contemporary Australian speech and writing”.

The critical decision at the outset was whether to describe how people use the language or prescribe how people should use the language.

Should the new dictionary describe how language was used or prescribe its use?
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The father of English lexicography, Samuel Johnson, whose prescriptivist A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755, felt “the duty of the lexicographer was to correct or proscribe”. The Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1928, had also been prescriptive.

However, the Macquarie editorial committee was “adamant that its dictionary was to be descriptive”, a move now standard in English language dictionaries. The committee wanted as comprehensive a dictionary as possible, so spoken as well as written words were included.

Johnson’s dictionary took seven years to compile. The Oxford dictionary took 70 years. Rather than two, Macquarie’s dictionary took 11 years.

The Macquarie lexicographers had started work in 1970; the first edition was published in 1981. The 8th edition, published in 2020, and its thesaurus contain more than 300,000 Australian words and definitions.

It is no surprise there were controversies to contend with in the years it took to compile the first edition.




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Controversies

The test for inclusion of words and expressions is currency. How often do you hear people say, “I’ll see youse later”? That particular Australianism is included in the dictionary because, as an entry explains:

English you does not distinguish singular from plural. The form youse does provide a plural, contrasting with singular you, but there is strong resistance to it, in spoken as well as written language, and it remains non-standard.

Other tests include whether a word is accepted by the language community, whether it’s used extensively, or whether it’s too individual or specialised. Is it likely to stand the test of time? Is the entry well supported by citations?

Language is forever changing, so the challenge for a dictionary is its capacity to remain up to date. Manser amusingly illustrates the growing acceptance of “literally” to be understood as “figuratively” with a quote from Amanda Vanstone:

But I can assure you that we are literally bending over backwards to take into account the concerns raised by colleagues.

Amanda Vanstone poses (literally) for a photograph for Australian Women’s Weekly in 2006.
Tim Bauer/AAP

As the recipient of elocution lessons in my early education I was fascinated to learn about the dictionary’s engagement with spoken English pronunciation. Then there is the fraught question of the description of iconic foods. Should Lamingtons be dipped only in thin chocolate icing and coconut? Not necessarily. There are pink jelly lamingtons and, more recently, Tokyo lamingtons, which have apparently landed with flavours of matcha and black sesame.

Manser’s least favourite word is mansplain, Word of the year in 2014. She hoped it would be ephemeral … but it was recently just nudged out by “fake news” for word of the decade.




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A cocktail

The dictionary was launched on 21 September 1981 as The Macquarie Dictionary because it would “add prestige to the dictionary to be associated with a university”, as the Oxford one was.

A special cocktail, the Macquarie, was created to mark the occasion: “Champagne, mango juice, Bitters, Grand Marnier, and a whole strawberry to float on the top”.

The reviews were glowing, except for one condescending and scathing review by the editor of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Robert Burchfield, a New Zealander, accused the committee of a “charming unawareness of the standards of reputable lexicography outside Australia”.

The new dictionary sold very well: 50,000 copies in its first year and another 50,000 copies over the next 18 months. Within ten years there were 23 spin off editions.

Malcolm Turnbull avails himself of a dictionary in 2008 during parliamentary question time.
Alan Porritt/AAP

Currently, there are more than 150 spin offs. There was even a Macquarie Bedtime Story Book for Children. There are, of course, other dictionaries of Australian English, such as Oxford University Press’s Australian National Dictionary, a dictionary of Australianisms first published in 1988. There was also an Australian version of the Collins British English Dictionary, which the Macquarie staff regarded as essentially British.

In 1976, the Macquarie offices moved to a former market gardener’s cottage on the campus of Macquarie University. Called “the cottage”, it sounds reminiscent of James Murray’s scriptorium in Oxford, where he oversaw the creation of The Oxford English Dictionary. In 1980, Macquarie Library Pty Ltd became the publisher and has held the copyright ever since, though Macmillan bought the dictionary in 2001.

Macquarie embraced Indigenous Australian issues with Macquarie Aboriginal Words in 1994 and the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia in 2005. As Ernie Dingo put it at the time: “This book is a White step in the Black direction”.

Manser, who went on to become a high-level public servant, has done painstakingly detailed research for this book, with great support from former colleagues.
It is well written in short chapters. I would have liked to see an index and a time-line, but I hesitate to quibble in the face of such a splendid historical document.The Conversation

Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2021 Indie Book Awards Longlists


The link below is to an article reporting on the longlists for the 2021 Indie Book Awards.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/12/09/160690/indie-book-awards-2021-longlists-announced/

2020 locked in shift to open access publishing, but Australia is lagging



Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock

Lucy Montgomery, Curtin University

For all its faults, 2020 appears to have locked in momentum for the open access movement. But it is time to ask whether providing free access to published research is enough – and whether equitable access to not just reading but also making knowledge should be the global goal.

An explanation of open access and how the system of having to pay for access to published research came about.

In Australia the first challenge is to overcome the apathy about open access issues. The term “open access” has been too easy to ignore. Many consider it a low priority compared to achievements in research, obtaining grant funding, or university rankings glory.

But if you have a child with a rare disease and want access to the latest research on that condition, you get it. If you want to see new solutions to climate change identified and implemented, you get it. If you have ever searched for information and run into a paywall requiring you to pay more than your wallet holds to read a single journal article that you might not even find useful, you will get it. And if you are watching dire international headlines and want to see a rapid solution to the pandemic, you will probably get it.

Many publishing houses temporarily threw open their paywall doors during the year. Suddenly, there was free access to research papers and data for scholars researching pandemic-related issues, and also for students seeking to pursue their studies online across a range of disciplines.




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Graphic showing benefits of open access

Safia Begum/The Blogworm/Aston University

In October 2020, UNESCO made the case for open access to enhance research and information on COIVD-19. It also joined the World Health Organisation and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling for open science to be implemented at all stages of the scientific process by all member states.

There is clearly an appetite for freely available information. Since it was established earlier this year, the CORD-19 website has built up a repository of more than 280,000 articles related to COVID-19. These have attracted tens of millions of views.

Europe has led the way

Europe was already ahead of the curve on open access and 2020 has accelerated the change. Plan S is an initiative for open access launched in Europe in 2018. It requires all projects funded by the European Commission and the European Research Council to be published open access.




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Chart showing growth in number of open access repositories
Growth in the number of open access repositories listed in the international Registry of Open Access Repositories.
Thomas Shafee/Wikipedia, CC BY

A 2018 report commissioned by the European Commission found the cost to Europeans of not having access to FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) research data was €10 billion ($A16.1 billion) a year.

In 2019, open access publications accounted for 63% of publications in the UK, 61% in Sweden and 54% in France, compared to 43% of Australian publications.

Australia is lagging behind

Australia’s flagship Australian Research Council has required all research outputs to be open access since 2013. But researchers can choose not to publish open access if legal or contractual obligations require otherwise. This caveat has led to a relatively low rate of open access in Australia.

chart showing numbers of publications that are open access and behind paywalls
The increase in the numbers of open access publications in Australia has been gradual.
Open Access Dashboard/Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI)



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Universities spend millions on accessing results of publicly funded research


The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) have long carried the torch for open access in Australia. But, without levers to drive change, they have struggled to change entrenched publishing practices of Australian academics.

Our Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI) project has examined open access across the world. We have analysed open access performance of individuals, individual institutions, groups of universities and nations in recent decades. The COKI Open Access Dashboard offers a glimpse into a subset of this international data, providing insights into national open access performance.

This analysis shows a steady global shift towards open access publications.

For example, in November 2020, Springer Nature announced it would allow authors to publish open access in Nature and associated journals at a price of up to €9,500 (A$15,300) per paper from January 2021. This was a signal change for the publishing industry. One of the world’s most prestigious journals is overturning decades of closed-access tradition to throw open the doors, and committing to increasing its open access publications over time.

At the moment, the pricing of this model enables only a select group to publish open access. The publication cost is equivalent to the value of some Australian research grants. Pricing is expected to become more affordable over time.

Chart showing open access publication options
A quick guide to open access publishing: for researchers who wish to do this the required fee can be a significant deterrent.
OpenAire, CC BY



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Increasing open access publications serves publishers’ commercial interests


It’s not just about access to facts

This international trend is a positive step for fans of freely available facts. However, we should not lose sight of other potentially larger issues at play in relation to open knowledge – that is, a level playing field for access to both published research and participation in research production.

Put another way, we need to pursue not only equity among knowledge takers but also among knowledge makers if we are to enable the world’s best thinkers to collaborate on the planet’s signature challenges.

All of this is good news for people who love to access information – but the bigger overall question for the higher education sector is about the conventions, traditions and trends that determine who gets to be considered for a job in a lab or a library or a lecture theatre. There is much more to be done to make our universities open for all – a future of equity in knowledge making as well as taking.The Conversation

Lucy Montgomery, Program Lead, Innovation in Knowledge Communication, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists


The link below is to an article reporting on the shortlists for the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/12/08/160636/victorian-premiers-literary-awards-2021-shortlists-announced/

2020 Barbara Jefferis Award Winner


The link below is to an article reporting on the winner of the Barbara Jefferis Award, Lucy Treloar for ‘Wolfe Island.’

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/11/19/159817/trelor-wins-2020-barbara-jefferis-award/

2020 Voss Literary Prize Shortlist


The link below is to an article reporting on the shortlist for the 2020 Voss Literary Prize.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/11/19/159827/voss-literary-prize-2020-shortlist-announced/

2020 Dymocks Book of the Year Winner


The link below is to an article reporting on the winner of the 2020 Dymocks Book of the Year award. The winner was Craig Silvey’s novel ‘Honeybee.’

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/12/01/160308/honeybee-named-dymocks-book-of-the-year-2020/

2020 Dymocks Book of the Year Shortlist


The link below is to an article reporting on the shortlist for the 2020 Dymocks Book of the Year.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/11/13/159472/dymocks-book-of-the-year-2020-shortlist-announced/

2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize Winner


The link below is to an article reporting on the winner of the ARA Historical Novel Prize for 2020, Mirandi Riwoe for Stone Sky Gold Mountain.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/11/11/159338/riwoe-wins-inaugural-50k-ara-historical-novel-prize/

2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Winners


The links below are to articles reporting on the shortlist and winners of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (the most recent article is at the top).

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/12/10/160773/prime-ministers-literary-awards-2020-winners-announced/
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/11/16/159553/prime-ministers-literary-awards-2020-shortlist-announced/