We are not dopes



In 1980 the NSW Education Department produced a book called Sydney and the Bush.

It was a hard-cover book selling for $4.50, unless you wanted it posted and then it would cost $6.

On page 232 it had a photo of Harold Wyndham, who was the director general of education – that’s how old it is.

But I remember thinking “the bush” seemed a put down of all things away from Sydney

But I did think of “the bush” when I read in a Sydney newspaper a headline that referred tho the bush in unflattering terms, indicating that if you did not live in Sydney then you have not lived.

The headline produced at least one letter castigating the newspaper for implying that people should all live in Sydney. The letter asked: What of the people who live in country towns?

I lived in Sydney for three months and I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough.

Anyway, my Australian National Dictionary says bush comes “frequently with the”. It has several pages of bush’s definitions and one of its definitions is “the country as opposed to the town, rural as opposed to urban life”.

Then it had “people lacking in urban sophistication”.

I was looking for bush week. The only example I found in several pages of small type was “what do you think this is, bush week?”

The Macquarie dictionary had bit more information. It said bush week was “an imaginary holiday time when country people come to town” and “a time when people are taken advantage of”.

The Dinkum Aussie Dictionary said bushweek (one word) was a situation where everything was a bloody mess. That was written by Crooked Mick.

Sidney J Baker has an attempt and quotes “what’s this, bush week?”

The word bush comes from the Dutch word bosch.

The Australian Dictionary of Insults and Vulgarities, compiled by Blind Freddy, says bush week can be explained as if an ignorant cockie behaved in the city as if he was still in the bush.

Around 1919 some people tried to organise a Bush Week to publicise the attractions of living in country towns, but nothing came of it. Several other attempts have been considered with only minor success. Sydney people, and I expect people living in other capitals, did not want to know what life was like in country towns.

Several other expressions contain the word bush. They include going bush, bush work, bush craft, bush lawyer, bush telegraph, bushranger, bushwhacker, bushfire, bushed and about a hundred other terms that fill up several pages of my big dictionary. About half of them are Australian terms.

A long time ago, well before the bush week attempt of 1919, Morris’s Dictionary of Australian words said the bush was any place well away from the influence of the big towns.

The book What’s Their Story says bush has produced more compounds than any other word. It goes on to say bush has been referred to as a political constituency.

The book Sydney and the Bush contains a joint pastoral letter on page 95. It condemns the principle of secularist education “because they are the seedlings of future immorality, infidelity and lawlessness”.

I still think they could have picked a better title.

lauriebarber.com; lbword@midcoast.com.au.





Nazi in use before Hitler's rise





Adolf Hitler did not like being called a Nazi.

Nazi was a derogatory term for a backwards peasant, being a shortened version of Ignatius, a common name in Bavaria, the area from which the Nazis emerged.

Opponents seized on this and shortened the party's title to the dismissive Nazi.

The term Nazi derives from the first two syllables of the name given in German to a party member Nationalsozialist and was coined in response to the German term Sozi, an abbreviation of Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany). Members of the party referred to themselves as Nationalsozialisten (National Socialists), rarely as Nazis.

The term was in use before the rise of the party as a colloquial and derogatory word for a backward peasant, characterising an awkward and clumsy person.

Mark Harrison, consulting for the UK cabinet’s office’s common technolody services unit, said that within Germany at the time, the word Nazi was a homonym for "Naczi" which was an insulting term for a "foolish clumsy person".

The term was not used by the Nazis to describe themselves.
Since the late 1930s, however, the term Nazi has come to symbolise what that party became, rather than having connotations of "national" or for that matter "socialist."

In 1933, when Hitler assumed power of the German government, usage of the designation Nazi diminished in Germany, although Austrian anti-Nazis continued to use the term derogatorily. 

Under the leadership of Hitler the National Socialist German Workers’ Party developed into a mass movement and ruled Germany through totalitarian means from 1933 to 1945. Founded in 1919 as the German Workers’ Party, the group promoted German pride and anti-Semitism. Hitler joined the party the year it was founded and became its leader in 1921. In 1933, he became chancellor of Germany. After Germany’s defeat in World War II the party was outlawed.

An older use of Nazi for national social is attested in German from 1903.

The NSDAP for a time attempted to adopt the Nazi term, but gave this up and the

NSDAP is said to have generally avoided the term.

According to Mark Forsyth writing in The Etymologicon, opponents quickly shortened the term to Nazi, which had been a term of abuse for years.

“Hitler wouldn’t have called himself a nazi.” Forsyth said

“Nazi is, and always has been, an insult.”

Just as other countries had shortened terms of abuse, or at least ridicule, the term for Bavarians was Nazi.

At first Hitler and his team, regarded as hicks, did not like the Nazi term. Then they tried to turn it to their advantage, with only limited success When they gained power they dealt with anybody who called Hitler a Nazi.

The NSDAP briefly adopted the Nazi designation, attempting to reappropriate the term, but soon gave up this effort and generally avoided it while in power. The use of "Nazi Germany", "Nazi regime", and so on was popularised by German exiles abroad. From them, the term spread into other languages and was eventually brought back to Germany.

The book Strange and Fascinating Facts by Don McCombs and Fred L Worth claimed that Konrad Heiden was the individual who coined the term Nazi, but this was quickly disputed. The book said Heiden was forced to flee Germany in 1933 because of his anti-Hitler stand.

My big dictionary says Nazidom is the concepts and institutions of the Nazi Party. Nazify is adopting Nazi as the doctrines of the Nazi Party. Nazism is the official doctrine of the Nazi Party, especially relating to racial sovereignty.








Column going for 23 years


I started writing this weekly newspaper column 23 years ago.

It started because somebody at work asked me what a milliard was.

I answered him to the best of my ability.

I recall that the Americans were using billion for the same number and it was causing much confusion in Australia.

So I decided to write about it.

Then people started telling me of their pet hates.

And it is still going more then 1150 columns later.

I hasten to add that, so I have been told, journalists can’t add up, so I could have missed a couple along the way.

I thought I would write about column.

Column originally meant, according to my big dictionary, “a cylindrical or slightly tapering  body of considerably greater length than diameter, erected vertically…”

No, that’s not what I wanted, but that word goes back to at least 1481.

The definitions included to shirk work, a division of ships and a name given to many parts of the body,

The word was originally spelt as colompne, colum, columpna and in many differerent forms.

I add that was before dictionaries were invented.

I was after a newspaper column

Eventually. I found something in my big dictionary’s pages of material.

The name was given to one inch of a newspaper column or a thin piece of brass used to separate columns of type. That was in the old days of newspapers. I only know of one newspaper that uses this method, and I had better not mentioned it in case it has caught up.

John Ayto in his Dictionary of Word Origins mentions extremity, included in other dictionaries, but then he mentions that the word in printed material goes back to the 15th century.

I asked myself why I had so much trouble finding it, but then it said a weekly newspaper column was only a 20th century development.

So Ilooked in the dictionaries. All mentioned the greater length than thickness.

But the Macquarie said “a journalistic department devoted to short articles or an entertaining kind” and so on.

The Collins said a column was writing in a newspaper by the same person “or is always about the same topic”. That would become boring.

Webster says a column is a special department of a newspaper furnished by a particular writer.

Heinemann says a column is a short newspaper article, usually written by the same person.

It adds a column is a formation of troops or vehicles following one after another,

Did you know that the word culminate comes from column? I thought I would throw that in.

Michael Quinion asks why the letter n is at the end of column, but is never pronounced.

The letter was once pronounced.

It was brought into English, via French, in the 15th century.

Quinion says that William Caxton, the first person to print books with movable type in England, dropped the n from the ending, but the n was reintroduced by classically educated scholars who wanted to match the spelling of its Latin original.

So, if you consider yourself to be a classically educated scholar, it’s your fault.

lauriebarber.com; lbword@midcoast.com.au.











I was at the bowling club when a fellow walked up to me and shoved a piece of paper in my hand. The heading said ineptoracy. It had a spelling mistake.

The heading should have been ineptocracy. But who was I to judge? After all, the word was unusual, so maybe it was a new word.

He might even have made up the word.

As I looked closer the word, allegedly from the Department of Defence, had an explanation that led me to believe  it was a made-up word, similar to ones that cross my desk on a daily basis.

The explanation said:

“A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society are least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.”

Now, there are enough clues there to convince you that it is a made-up word.

But peopled are making up words every day.

Several people are are making up definitions for inept every day. I qualify for most of them, although I hesitate at stupid, screwball, witless and a few other words.

So I checked.

I consulted Collins, Heinemann, Macquarie, Webster, and Readers Digest (Readers Digest said “an inept cook” but I by-passed that). I checked Johnson and the First Real Dictionary from 1604.

Another Readers Digest dictionary in my possession said inept meant ”inefficient, incompetent, unskilled untrained, unqualified, without dexterity, bungling, ineffective, ineffectual, awkward, clumsy, maladroit”. I would question unskilled. The most ept person in the world (yes, there is such a word) has to get a skill somewhere. Maybe he should have gone somewhere else to get his skills.

My 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary didn’t also include ineptocracy, so I confidently expected it was a made-up word.
My big dictionary listed several words that included inept.

They included inept, inepticality, ineptitude, ineptly and ineptness, but no ineptocracy.

The word came from middle French, if you forget the Latin.      

The earliest use of the word inept, that I could find,  was in 1603. In that year Body of Man said: “A ineptitude to learn sheweth a drie and different braine”. In the same year Leviath talked about the differences between apt and inept.

In October 1895 Cornhill Magazine said “the lawyers of the land were singularly inept when our soldiers and sailors were at their best”.

Under inepticality the big dictionary said somebody who was a very pleasant person showed attacks of total inepticality.

Ineptitude meant the quality of being totally inept.

Ineptly meant in a totally inept manner, even the quality of being inept.

Ept came into the language very late, would you believe 1938, as an antonym for inept. It meant, according to my big dictionary, adroit, appropriate, effective. In that year EB White in a letter said “I am much obliged to you for your warm, courteous and ept treatment of a rather week, skinny subject”. Several other people started using ept from that date.

But I wonder if ept came from the word apt

Apt, according to my big dictionary, started life in 1791 to mean fitting. It gradually changed to “to make fit” and then to suit.

Probably not, although some dictionaries say yes.

lauriebarber.com; lbword@midcoast.com.au