Tim Blair


New Criterion



Wednesday, June 09, 2004
THE MACQUARIE DICTIONARY is perhaps the greatest disaster to afflict the English language in Australia. Greater even than the post-modern Arts faculties of our universities.

I recall with embarrassment my pleasure when it was first published. Here, at last, were Australians interpreting their own version of English as only native speakers could.

Five minutes after forking out my money I knew I had been dudded. Here were etymologists with cloth ears and no professional standards at all.

It was inevitable that this vandals' version of scholarship should be adopted wholesale in our schools. It was not that another dictionary was needed on the library shelves. It was the nationalist politics of it.

I burned my Akubra the same day. It's straw hats in summer for this old Uncle.

Like all incompetents, the leaders of the Macquarie defend the indefensible by denying, on the grounds of tolerance, that there is any correct usage. We all vote with our tongues, the proficient, the careless, the meretricious, the con-artist, the huckster, and the Macquarie's Editors will decide, in their ignorance, what words are invited to reside in the mansions of our language.

If the journalists, presenters, talk-back callers, school students, etc, think 'enormity' means 'magnitude', this kind of thinking goes, well so it does, and off goes 'enormity' to its anonymous grave, and its meaning with it. If you were never acquainted with its meaning, how can you regret that?

Such an enormity!

Last I heard, the Macquarie was run by a giggling guru of semantic depravity, a woman who simply laughed at the idea that dictionary makers had any responsibility for what they were doing to our linguistic commons. How stuffy and elitist her critics were.

Now Macquarie has teamed up with Auntie to give us all a demonstration of how to corrupt language in the name of political correctness, and I am grateful to reader MC for drawing it to my attention.

The greater and the lesser whore have produced a website called Wordmap. It claims to inform us of regional variations in Australian English. On what basis? Read on.

Aboriginal suitcase

my mother and her friends use this term to refer to cheap cask wine. She always laughs after saying it as though it's a great joke. Takes all types I s'pose.

In fact it takes only one type, the uncritical leftist, and, apparently, only one of them, to parachute this term, like Peter Garrett into a safe Labor seat, into the language that all of you who live in the southern tablelands of New South Wales use daily, according to Auntie-Macquarie.

They are shameless.

If you have a Macquarie on your shelves, rip it out right now, and dispose of it thoughtfully in your recycling bin.

If your child's school has allowed a Macquarie onto its shelves, authorise your child to make post-modern commentary upon it. I suggest a fleet of paper airplanes to fill the air at school assembly.

Then donate to the school a decent dictionary. There are plenty of them. They've all lost their moorings, but most are compiled by people who know English. If you need to learn Australian usage, prefer Oxford's dictionary.