This appears to be a case of ‘What were they thinking?’ The good folk at the Macquarie Dictionary have announced their choice for the Australian Word of the Year and… (hand me the envelope please)… the award goes to… strollout. If your reaction was ‘Eh?’ then you’re on the money. This baffling choice is a rather obvious, and not very creative, play on the word ‘rollout’. The Morrison government was engaged in a vaccine rollout, and the Labor party line was that they were too slow about it, hence this limp pun strollout. It was launched on an unsuspecting world back in May by Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. She credits her colleague Liam O’Brien with having coined the word.
Even though this Word of the Year strollout was also chosen by the Australian National Dictionary Centre—the choice still bothers me. For three reasons.
The first is that this is a blatantly heavy-handed bit of partisan politics. The word comes from the trade union movement, is aimed at sledging a Coalition government, and is clearly meant to support the union movement’s political arm the Labor party. That is very partisan politics indeed. And somehow it would be nice if the chosen Word of the Year didn’t look quite so much like a contribution to the Labor party’s next election campaign.
My second concern is that I question how widely used the word was in 2021. How often did you hear ‘strollout’ in conversation? How often did you see it in print? Was it filling the airwaves of talkback radio? It was certainly used by Labor party politicians to sledge the government. And those portions of the media that are vocal supporters of the Labor party may have done the same. (Although, to be honest, I don’t believe this has been used much in the media at all, except in quotations from partisan politicians.) Was ‘strollout’ the dominant force this choice implies? I think not.
A third concern is that one of the roles of the Word of the Year is to pick a winner, to find an expression that is likely to become a longstanding component in the Australian language.
But it’s unlikely that strollout will have a very long life. Already Australia’s excellent record in controlling the virus is making strollout look outdated.
In fact, given the massive vaccination rates in Australia, ‘strollout’ is now looking like something of an embarrassment to those who promoted it. ‘Strollout’ may occasionally be used during next year’s federal election (by those who haven’t worked out yet that it has no political bite). But once that campaign is over it will die a death.
I like and admire the work of both the Macquarie Dictionary and the Australian National Dictionary Centre, but I’m sorry folks—this time you got it wrong.
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Contact Kel at ozwords.com.au
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