Showing all posts tagged: language

Angel Baby, a story of doomed loved, and changing Australian accents

14 May 2024

A scene from Angel Baby, a film by Michael Rymer, depicting stars Jacqueline McKenzie and John Lynch.

A scene from Angel Baby, a film by Michael Rymer, depicting stars Jacqueline McKenzie and John Lynch.

Angel Baby, trailer, is the 1995 debut feature of Australian filmmaker Michael Rymer. You may have seen some of his other work: Battlestar Galactica, Hannibal, both TV series, and/or his 2012 feature, Face to Face, but likely you’ve not have heard of Angel Baby.

Filmed in Melbourne, Angel Baby tells the story of a doomed love shared by Kate (Jacqueline McKenzie) and Harry (John Lynch), both of whom are battling severe mental illnesses. I won’t say too much more about it, except to note this is an example of under-appreciated Australian cinema.

And, possibly, an exemplification of how Australian accents have changed over thirty years. I say this because I was amazed at how distinct, how strong, some of the actor’s accents were. I live in Australia, and am surrounded by people with Australian accents.

That’s obviously a no-brainer — well, to an extent — but it means generally Australian accents should sound “neutral” to me, because I’m exposed to them daily. Mostly, that is. I spend several days a week in Sydney, a diverse city. Here, Australian accents are only a sample of the many I hear daily.

Perhaps this accounts for why I found some of the accents in Angel Baby so pronounced, so unmissable, because in reality I am not wholly immersed by them. But it seems to me, to detect an accent, local to the region you reside in, which may otherwise seem indiscernible, you need to go outside that area, to begin to perceive it.

I spent several years in London, England not Canada, and after a few months could easily detect Antipodean accents. It was an odd sensation to speak on the phone to lifelong friends living down under, and notice their accents. To notice, effectively, my accent. I wonder if you can pick up my accent on the phone, to lift a line from the Waifs’ 2002 song, London Still.

Australian accents are said to fall into three main categories: broad, general, and cultivated. The Australian accents I detected in Angel Baby had to be in the board category. Of course, there are any number of explanations as to why the accents seemed pronounced.

Could it be I was hearing not wholly familiar Melbourne variations of the Australian accent? Or could it be some of the actors were asked to emphasise their accents, Angel Baby being an Australian production, and all. Perhaps Rymer wanted people, particularly overseas audiences, to make no mistake they were watching an Australian film.

But I also began wondering if the internet was playing some part in my hearing Australian accents on Australian soil? Angel Baby was made in 1995. The year after 1994, which Angela Watercutter, writing recently for Wired, described as the last year before culture began to migrate online.

Could it be imagined Australian accents were among this migration, where they began to blend with every other English language accent, every other accent full stop, and begin altering? Of course, accents from other global regions are still distinct. I have no trouble discerning, for example, Irish, North American, or English accents.

Or those of other cultures, because different accents stand out. But might thirty years of internet culture, monoculture perhaps, be making a difference? Unlike thirty years ago, today we are constantly hearing, constantly absorbing, the voices of speakers from across the globe, on the web, and social media.

Might this be resulting in accents — I don’t know — dissolving into each other a bit? Are we unwitting students of elocution lessons, being served up through the world wide web? Accordingly, a “normal” Australian accent of thirty years ago, may sound quite different today. But who knows? Perhaps I am only imagining this would-be diction.

One thing is certain though. If you have the chance, look at Angel Baby. If you’re a Kanopy member, it may be available in your region.


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A not so deep dive into a not so new neologism

17 April 2024

When it comes to what’s published online, I consider myself a moderately well-read person. Obviously, I’m not across every last thing posted on the web, but I probably spend a good couple of hours a day following news sites, what’s on the RSS feeds I subscribe to, social media, and so on.

Despite this, what I’d describe as big news stories still seem to slip me by. I’m sometimes surprised to read, for example, that a major international sports fixture is about commence. Or a music act that is otherwise a household name, is preparing to play their first show locally, and I had no idea they were even in the country.

Maybe that’s why — prior to a few days ago — I’d seemingly missed seeing the term deep dive, which is being used to refer to in-depth news stories, and blog posts, on a given topic. It’s quite possible however I missed seeing the neologism, in my daily futile attempts to sidestep that other overused noob of a term, reach out.

Of course neither deep dive, nor reach out are neologisms, new terms, as such. People I’m sure have been deep diving, or feel as if they have been, in the oceans and other bodies of water for eons. Similarly, people have been reaching out to grab an apple from the fruit bowl, or take a book off a shelf, for many long centuries.

But it is the connotation these terms are used in, that is new, or rather, somewhat new. So before writing a post heralding the advent of a freshly minted neologism, in this case deep dive, I decided to have a look around. This actually amounted to a pretty perfunctory look around, consisting of but a single search engine query.

That query led me to Merriam-Webster, a “leading provider of language information for more than 180 years”. Thanks to their listing of deep dive, I learned the term had been used to describe “an exhaustive investigation, study, or analysis of a question or topic”, since, wait for it, 1986.

1986. That’s like ten years before the internet as most of us know it, come along. Either I’ve been hanging out in all the wrong places online, all this time, or someone on TikTok has only recently made the term deep dive go viral. Obviously, my money is on the latter.



Pre-production expenses: cost accounting for sex and drugs

6 April 2024

In this case, pre-production expenses would appear to relate to the costs associated with procuring illicit drugs, and the services of sex workers.

The term came to light during proceedings in the Australian Federal Court last week, in the course of a defamation case between a former federal parliamentary staffer, and an Australian TV broadcaster.

With “pre-production expenses”, have we witnessed the coining of a new euphemism? One that means to ask someone else to reimburse the costs another person incurred while obtaining sex and drugs? I’m not sure it’s entirely new, however. It could be accounting departments have been using the phrase to classify certain expenses for some time.

Still, as a possibly somewhat new euphemism, pre-production expenses can take its place in the vernacular along with the likes of assorted other terms, including “friends with benefits”, “pre-loved”, “wardrobe malfunction”, “between jobs”, and of course, “cook the books”.


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Noctalgia: when you miss seeing the light polluted night sky

25 September 2023

Noctalgia is the recently minted neologism for the phenomenon of missing dark skies at night. Noctalgia is something astronomers could tell you about. Dark, light pollution free, skies are essential for their work, but they’re not so commonplace anymore. And here we have a dilemma.

The source of this light pollution is the night lighting that keeps us safe and secure. But light pollution does not only originate from the surface of the planet. The growing number of satellites in Earth orbit, of which we likewise greatly depend, is also adding to the problem for astronomers:

More recently, the explosive growth in satellite communication “constellations,” like SpaceX’s Starlink system, has put orders of magnitude more satellites into orbit than even a decade ago, with even more on the way. Those satellites don’t just spoil deep-space astronomical observations when they cross a telescope’s field of view; they also scatter and reflect sunlight from their solar arrays. The abundance of satellites is causing the overall brightness of the sky to increase all around the globe.

Maybe noctalgia can be added to the list of contender words when dictionaries next update their lexicons, if that hasn’t already happened.


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Antarctica based scientists have developed their own accent

20 September 2023

A study of the accents of eleven scientists, originally from different regions and countries, who spent a winter together at an Antarctic base, found they had developed a new accent of their own:

In 2019, a team from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich studied the phonetic change in accents among 11 “winterers” recruited from the British Antarctic Survey. This included eight people born and raised in England (five in the south and three in the north), one person from the northwest US, another from Germany, and lastly an Icelandic person.

They recorded their voice at the beginning of the study, then made four more re-recordings at approximately six weekly intervals. During this time, they were working closely together, socializing with one another, and having limited contact with the outside world. Over the course of the stay, the researchers noticed significant changes in their accents.



Information pollution, decision fatigue, among new dictionary words

7 September 2023 has unveiled a new series of updates to its lexicon. Five hundred and sixty six new words have been added (seems a lot) along with three hundred and forty eight new definitions.

The words don’t stop coming, so we’re updating the dictionary more frequently than ever. And not just with any words: this update includes an incredibly useful concentration of terms for naming the complexities of modern life.

I haven’t looked at all five-hundred plus additions, but straight off the bat, I can tell you I like information pollution, and decision fatigue. Neologism, or terms, for the times, if ever they were.



The American Dialect Society word of the year 2022 is –ussy

13 January 2023

Are you ready for some word play?

-ussy, which, in this context, is actually considered a suffix — but, in this case, is still a word — has been chosen as the American Dialect Society’s (ADS) word of the year for 2022:

“The selection of the suffix -ussy highlights how creativity in new word formation has been embraced online in venues like TikTok,” Zimmer said. “The playful suffix builds off the word pussy to generate new slang terms. The process has been so productive lately on social media sites and elsewhere that it has been dubbed -ussification.”

Remember the word e-mail, before it simply became email? The e- suffix was selected as the ADS word of the year in 1998. Somehow e- felt more like a word of the year than -ussy, but then I guess that’s what someone who doesn’t use TikTok would say.



How adorbs, 500 new Scrabble words for your playing inspo

21 December 2022

To see the pace at which the English language is evolving, though I’m not sure evolving would be everyone’s verb of choice — change, or even devolution, might better fit the bill — look no further than the latest batch of words that can now be used in popular word game Scrabble.

Some five hundred words have been added to latest edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, says David Astle, writing for The Brisbane Times. Among them are adorbs, convo, dox, inspo, jedi, stan, sitch, and thingie.

Despite the fanfare, however, you may stand in oppo (another intake) to such skeezy (repulsive) additions, yelling ixnay (slang term for veto) at this whole thingie (yep, that’s in too). Pushed to shove, you may even succumb to grawlix (the sweary symbols of cartoons), yet 500 new words represent less a bleak day for English than a chance to embiggen your Scrabble ammo, amirite? And your score.


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Gaslighting named Merriam-Webster dictionary word of 2022

3 December 2022

Hopefully by making gaslighting their word of the year of 2022, online dictionary Merriam-Webster increases awareness of the the insidious practice:

Psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.

Merriam-Webster words of the year appear to be selected according to the number of lookups of the word in the previous twelve months. Oligarch, codify, and loamy, were also among those frequently enquired upon. But Loamy is an intriguing inclusion, because surely dirt and soil related matters wouldn’t be of much interest to a great many people. Well, you’d be surprised. Loamy found its spot in the limelight after being featured on word game Wordle earlier this year.



National Dictionary Centre word of 2022 delivered on teal wave

23 November 2022

The Australian federal election, held in May 2022, saw a record number of teal, or independent, MPs elected to the Australian Parliament. Their strong showing has variously been labelled a teal bath or teal wave, after many teal candidates unseated a significant number of sitting members, most of whom belonged to the previous Liberal-National Coalition government.

It perhaps comes as no surprise then to learn the Australian National Dictionary Centre has declared “teal” as their word of 2022:

Previously associated with a dark greenish-blue colour, or even a breed of duck, teal now has another meaning in Australian English. The word came to prominence this year during the federal election. A ‘teal wave’ of independents successfully challenged government members of parliament in a number of seats.


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