Kwaussie named 2017 word of the year

The word became popular as Barnaby Joyce discovered he was entitled to New Zealand citizenship. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Tiger Webb – ABC News

The Australian National Dictionary Centre has chosen “kwaussie” as its word of the year.

The word refers to a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand, a New Zealander living in Australia, or a person of Australian and New Zealand descent.

Amanda Laugesen, director of the ANDC, said the word — a portmanteau of Kiwi and Aussie — came to newfound prominence during the dual citizenship crisis that has so far prevented six senators, one deputy prime minister, a senate president, and one MP from holding office.

“The word was used to describe deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce,” Dr Laugesen said, “and we found it was very popular in social media.”

But the citizenship mess was not the first time the word kwaussie had been used.

One of its earliest citations labelled Russell Crowe a kwaussie, calling him “what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can’t decide whether they’re a Kiwi or an Aussie”.

Contrary to general reference dictionaries — which might only include definitions — the Australian National Dictionary shows the etymology of words and changing nature of the words it lists.

Given this mission, Dr Laugesen said the centre’s choice aimed to be both lexically interesting and Australian.

“Kwaussie is a great example of that,” she said.

Political and sporting neologisms lead the field

In being announced as the centre’s word of the year, kwaussie has beaten out a shortlist of several Australian terms including makarrata, postal survey, and robodebt.

Jumper punch, one of the terms on the shortlist, refers to an illegal punch disguised as the action of grabbing the opponent’s jumper during an AFL game.

Other words on the ANDC shortlist referred to the political events that shaped 2017.

These included makarrata, a Yolngu word that rose to prominence following the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for a First Nations voice to be enshrined in the constitution.

Robodebt, another item on the shortlist, referred to Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program.

“[It’s] perhaps not the most exciting word, but one that affected a lot of people,” Dr Laugesen said.

Further, she said, it proved the lasting productivity of the “robo-” prefix, joining its morphological relatives robocall, robopoll, and robocop.

“Bit of a trend there with words that reflect the rise of automation,” Dr Laugesen said.

[Read the ABC article].

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