Have you ever heard an Australian say ‘our dictionary’ when talking about the Macquarie?
I think that’s partly because the Macquarie Dictionary is “Australia’s National dictionary”. But it also feels like it is ours. It has our slang, both old and new, and it captures the subtleties of Australian English. It’s also where we can find beautiful regional words and phrases, like three-corner jack.
All this is thanks to the hard work of the lexicographers and editors at the Macquarie. But it doesn’t stop there.
Baubles and word play
Recently, after a few too many hours editing and writing, I was troubling over of the definition of the word bauble. A lovely word, to be sure, but if you’ve stared at it too long it can – like any word – begin to befuddle you. I checked both the spelling and the meaning in the Macquarie and was quite surprised to find that it was not defined as a Christmas ornament.
After chatting with a couple of wonderful writers and looking in a few other dictionaries, we decided that the Macquarie might possibly be lacking something. I didn’t really believe that – I thought there must have been a system (read user) error.
One writer suggested I contact the Macquarie as she’d heard they are open to feedback.
So, I did.
I passed on our thoughts and our references. I couched it in terms of seeking their opinion. I’ll be honest: I expected no response.
And this is usually the where the story ends. In a dry, lonely corner of inattention. Yet another dull little ‘thank you’ auto-reply.
Not this time.
I heard back. I heard back quickly. And I heard back from the lady herself – Susan Butler, editor of the Australian Macquarie.
They listened. They welcomed our feedback. And here’s the big bit – they used it. With our information as the kick-off, their experts had prepared new entries and definitions.
The dictionary – our dictionary – will change. Next year, these new entries will go in when they upload all of the other updated words and listings in the online dictionary.
Would you like to see what will go in?
Too bad. No spoilers from me. You’ll have to wait.
Make it your own
As pleasantly surprised as I was, I shouldn’t have been.
The Macquarie has always been this way.
In the very first edition, a newsletter was included that encouraged contributions from dictionary users, as referenced in The Macquarie Dictionary, its History and its Editorial Practices.
For me, this experience has been like manna from word-lover-heaven.
Next time you find yourself wondering at something in the Macquarie, don’t leave it at that. Question it, discuss it and send them your thoughts.
Our dictionary is our dictionary because, as always, it contains our words.
What more could you ask for?