“Wait,” said Victoria Morgan, the dictionary’s senior editor. “I’d like to give special mention to steining.” Forget Oktoberfest; steining is applying liquid nitrogen into a sheep’s bum to foil parasites. The name derives from John Steinfort, a Gippsland vet who refined this kinder alternative to mulesing. Well and good, said the room, but we have 70 more debutantes to meet, and climaxes wait for nobody.
Silkpunk won the arts slot – a scifi subgenre fusing Asian history and culture. (Punk in fact has been a busy suffix, the cyberpunk of 1955 inspiring steampunk and cowpunk – country-and-western-overtones-meets-Ramones.)
Suffixes in general hog the longlist, just African swine fever has jinxed our porcine friends. A glance through the catalogue reveals compounds involving -washing and -jacking, -casting and -shaming. That last annex adorns the environment winner, where flight-shaming denotes the flak that jet-setters cop for their carbon bootprint. In Sweden, where flygskam was hatched, there’s also the practice of tågskryt – train-bragging.
Onward and forward, moving from colloquial to fashion, via anecdata (personal experience parading as research) to robodebt, bumping into realms and revolutions along the way.
Thicc, say, is Afro-American English for curvaceous, a strong finisher over silver tsunami. Cheese slaw is a salad variant christened in Broken Hill, sultanas optional. Ngangkari is Pitjantjatjara for traditional healer, the practitioner of bush medicine making such a positive difference for Aboriginal patients.
Coffice, on the other hand, is treating your local cafe as a workspace, composing memos between cappuccinos. Banana trick is rorting the automatic checkout by claiming one pricier item to be the cheaper equivalent, where limes are “accidentally” ascribed as lemons.
Each word embodies zeitgeist, yet media releases demand one winner. Eight years back, in my first rodeo as word judge, we recognised burqini as top neologism. And now that garment goes to cancel culture, the prompt stampede that strands any culprit of unacceptable remarks or action – alias cultural boycotting or hashtag activism.
Alison Moore, Macquarie’s editor-in-chief, described the phrase as a force of our era, for better or worse. Ironically then, the committee voted in, accepting cancel culture with open arms, the tyro earning the 2019 crown over eco-anxiety and whataboutism (where false balance insists every side has a point.)
To see the full list of nominees and category winners, head for the Macquarie’s website, since one person’s thicc is another’s anecdata, according to research. After so much anguish, so many tough words and vain dreams, I look forward to next season’s Dictionary Darling.