The Advertising Standards Board is the arbiter of all things proper in advertising.
But they’re not the nanny-statists some might assume them to be. They have upheld the right for advertisers to use the phrase “fork”, as in, “no forking worries”.
What’s on your plate today, Punchers?
As editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, I picture myself as the woman with the mop and broom and bucket cleaning the language off the floor after the party is over. And in this case it was quite a party.
But what it left on the floor was misogyny – with a new meaning. The established meaning of misogyny is ‘hatred of women” but this is a rarefied term that goes back to the 1600s in English that acquired the status of a psychological term in the late 1800s when its counterpart misandry was coined. Both terms refer to pathological hatreds.
Since the 1980s misogyny has come to be used as a synonym for sexism – a synonym with bite but nevertheless with the meaning of ‘entrenched prejudice against women’ rather than ‘pathological hatred of women’.
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Australia, we suck at pronunciation. After all, we’re the country that can barely pronounce its own name. Aus-tray-lia? It’s Straya, mate. Love it or leave it.
Peoples’ names? Nope, too hard. Yesterday, Puncher Anthony Sharwood took to the streets to conduct a hilarious survey for News.com.au about our seventh most popular last name: Nguyen. Most streetfolk challenged to say the name properly answered with some variation of neg-ewe-yen (proper pronunciation right here). One bloke even asked if the Vietnamese surname was Aboriginal.
Riiiiight. And Nguyen’s just the tip of the iceberg. People often say the Chinese surname, Zhang, as zang. It’s jung. I can name at least two Greek families I know who have last names six syllables long. Most people can’t say them - and most Greek surnames are fairly phonetic.
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Traditional signs of approaching armageddon include famines, earthquakes and (if you happen to be in a Simpsons movie) the fatal dissolving of a rock band’s barge in polluted lake water.
To this chilling list of end-of-days omens, I would like to add: opaquely-worded advertisements for jobs which seem to exist in dimensions accessible only to those fluent in management-ese.
Take, as just one terrifying example, the large “worker wanted” ad I snipped from a prominent page in a Sydney broadsheet newspaper not too many Saturdays ago. It announces that a “Change Manager – Transformation Leader” is required for a “newly created step change role, within a recently amalgamated business of 7000+ employees”.
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Hey! I just met you,
And this is craz—- um, unadvisable,
But here’s my number,
So call me maybe.
They’re the inescapably catchy lyrics of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, which thousands of Australian minds have been captive to in recent times.
Well, they’re nearly the lyrics. They’re what they would be if we took words we use in everyday life a little too seriously. Let me explain.
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We come into this world naked and squalling. Red in the neck, uncouth. Unsophisticated. Obsessed with boobs, loud, annoying, a bit farty. Not much interest in literature.
We are all born bogans, and life is just a matter of accreting varying levels of sophistication.
Today, as we bathe in The Voice winner Karise Eden’s victory proclamation of “I love youse all”, we can also joyfully splash about in the fact that the word ‘bogan’ has finally made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Like yin and yang. Bono and Cher. Jekyll and Hyde. While they’ll always be a long list of words we hate, there’s just as many that we’ll always love. Some are satisfying. Others are fun to say. And lots are hard to spell. Here’s a bunch of our favourites, add yours below.
Mercenary: Such a whimsical sounding word with such an unfortunate meaning.
Whack: As in, that shit is whack.
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They can ruin a perfectly good sentence. Make your roll your eyes and scrunch up your face. Say grrrr. The worst ones have the power to ruin your day. They’re the words we hate and they’re everywhere. So we’ve made a list! And now all those horrible words can live together at last. Join in.
There are too many perfectly good nouns being turned into improvised verbs. Here are some of our least favourite. Birthing is potentially the most annoying. It’s used in sentences like: “when I was birthing Sally”. And usually by people gloating about the fact that they didn’t have an epidural.
Shudder. This word is the verbal equivalent of a recoil.
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Most Australians couldn’t give two hoots who runs the Australia Network. It is of no importance to them whether the ABC or SKY News is in charge of the television service this country projects into Asia.
Just the same, the spectacular botching of the tender process during the week has a political impact because it reinforces the impression of government incompetence.
The response of many voters to the scandal will be: “See, I told you. This mob couldn’t raffle a chook in a pub.”
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Like kitsch, schnauzer and – to a lesser extent – gemütlichkeit*, schadenfreude is one of those excitingly guttural expressions that has hitchhiked its way from Germany into English-speaking countries such as Australia.
The loanword is a combination of Schaden (harm) and freude (joy), and describes pleasure taken in other people’s misfortunes.
It’s a phenomenon which can be observed with increasing frequency on internet sites such as failblog.org which revels in human error, embarrassment and outright idiocy.
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Queensland really dodged a bullet.
After the devastating floods of that fatal tsunami inundated the state, the waters had barely receded when it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Turns out Yasi’s bark was worse than its bite.
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Recently, much has been said about the death of the book. Perhaps more accurate though, is the death of words themselves.
Not that this is anything new. Oscar Wilde lamented Victorian England’s loss of meaning through an obsession with politeness, appearances and crustless sandwiches.
However, the difference now is that the meaning of words is decomposing because people use inappropriate synonyms to feel better about their insufficient vocabulary.
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Our national political conversation is littered with words that have lost their meaning: ‘fighting for peace’, ‘protecting our borders’, ‘truth in sentencing’, the list goes on.
When it comes to the economy – ‘productivity and flexibility’ are two more benign, if somewhat bland, words that have been abused so horribly it is now tough to remember what they originally meant.
Often I read the commentary pieces in newspapers about these issues that make grand claims about the virtues of productivity and flexibility, a panacea to every business problem, a self-evident good.
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They come from far, they come from wide. They come with a fire in their bellies and a penchant for the written word that not even a million monkeys on a million typewriters could even dream of topping no matter how many sonnets they secured or peanuts they procured with their feverish and dexterous opposable thumbs. They are, of course, and without a shadow of a flickering doubt - bad writers.
The bad writer is a mystery for the ages. A mystery, wrapped in a riddle, snug as a bug in a tightly woven and off-white or eggshell coloured woollen rug.
The fact remains that since man has walked the earth since time immemorial, our command of language above all is what has set man apart from beast; what has separated the men from the boys (by men I of course mean men, and by boys I mean animals).
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It really is the best invention, ever.
A company in the US has dreamt up a bit of punctuation to indicate that you are being sarcastic.
As if you ever going to need it.
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Following the success of my colleague Paul Colgan’s call for entries to the Punch Political Dictionary, today we’re launching a parallel appeal for entries to the Punch Business Dictionary – those words and phrases that tripped off the tongue during the corporate gyrations of the past year.
The good folk at Macquarie Dictionary have offered six suggestions. Here are ours. Over to you - and please give generously.
Float-model: A beautiful woman used to attract investors to your listing on the stock market. Pioneered, and possibly perfected, by Myer with Jennifer Hawkins during its $2.4bn float. Investors, some no doubt encouraged to open their wallets by the presence of the former Miss Universe, are still waiting for the shares to reach their issue price.
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