Kwaussie Kwaussie Kwaussie! What what what?

Published: 04 December 2017

Barnaby Joyce: pretty happy to no longer be a Kwaussie

Word of the year greeted with puzzlement

Barnaby Joyce: pretty happy to no longer be a Kwaussie
Image © 2017 AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Australia’s official word of the year has been met with a huge round of confusion as people wonder whether they’ve ever before heard the winner: “Kwaussie”.

The choice was inspired by the dual citizenship debacle that threw Barnaby Joyce into a by-election on the weekend, due to him holding dual New Zealand and Australian citizenship.

Kiwi + Aussie = Kwaussie. Clever because it’s a homophone with “quasi”, meaning “partially” or “apparently”.

But is being clever enough to make it our national word? Doesn’t it also have to be used by people?

The Australian National Dictionary Centre director Amanda Laugesen says Kwaussie - a blend of Kiwi and Aussie - came to prominence particularly on social media during the constitutional crisis that engulfed several senators and MPs who discovered they were dual citizens this year.

Dr Laugesen said the centre believed that Kwaussie was first used in a 2002 New Zealand newspaper in relation to actor Russell Crowe.

"He was described as a Kwaussie - what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can't decide whether they're a Kiwi or an Aussie," she said.

"Subsequent evidence suggests its use is predominantly Australian, found chiefly in social media, and also found with spelling variants including Kwozzie and Kwozzy.

"Thanks to the two Kwaussies identified as ineligible to sit in parliament, Barnaby Joyce and Greens senator Scott Ludlam, the term is now becoming better known."

Or is it? It seems its prominence on social media is largely people asking whether anyone has ever heard the term before today.

Indeed Google Trends suggest apart from a small spike in 2004, the term has barely been searched for – until today.

Kwaussie joins last year’s word “democracy sausage”, and previous winners “sharing economy”, “shirtfront” and “bitcoin” as a fairly odd Australian lexicographical hall of fame.

It was picked from a short list of words selected by staff at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, which with Oxford University Press publishes the Australian National Dictionary of words and phrases unique to Australia.

Other words and phrases that made the short list included:
* Robodebt - a debt incurred as a result of the Department of Human Services' automated data matching and debt recovery program
* WAxit - a term for the potential or hypothetical departure of Western Australia from the Australian federation
* Makarrata - the Aboriginal word describes a ceremonial ritual that aims to restore peace after a dispute
* Jumper punch - an illegal punch disguised as the action of grabbing hold of the opponent's jumper during a game of Aussie Rules
* Postal survey - a survey conducted by post, much like the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017

with AAP
© 2017 AAP