How Does Macquarie Dictionary's Word of the Year Stack Up Against Oxford's Vape?

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Choosing one word to encapsulate the goings on of a year is a big charge, but Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English was up for the challenge. Among several strong (well, strongish) contenders like binge watching, bamboo ceiling, lifehacking and selfie stick, “mansplain” was chosen as the word of the year. Their definition of the word is as follows.

Verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in a way that is patronising because it assumes that a woman will be ignorant of the subject matter. [MAN + (EX)PLAIN with s inserted to create a pronunciation link with explain]

The dictionary’s editorial committee said mansplain was “a clever coinage which captured neatly the concept of the patronising explanation offered only too frequently by some men.”

The portmanteau word originated in the United States among feminist commentators, but it is not know who first used the word. It’s taken a little while for Australia to adopt the term—it made the New York Times’ list of words of the year in 2010.  This lag in time is not uncommon, shared Susan Butler, Macquarie Dictionary’s editor.

“There used to be a 10- to 15-year lag. And then we got to the late 90s when words like couch potato appeared in the New Yorker and six months later appeared in an Australian newspaper. These days it can be instant, but mansplain took a little longer.”

Macquarie Dictionary clarified that words of the year aren’t ones that people go to their dictionary to look up the most, but that they are words that reflect the happenings and the culture of the past year.

The people’s choice for the word of the year is actually two words, “share plate— a serving in a restaurant designed as multiple small portions so that several diners can share the same dish.”

But how does “mansplain” rank with Oxford Dictionary’s—one of Macquarie’s rivals—word of the year? Oxford went with “vape,” a noun and verb, which means “an electronic cigarette or similar device,” when the subject and “inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device,” when it is the action.

Mansplain is already a part of Oxford’s lexicon, so they beat the Aussies there. But “mansplain” carries with it a weight—the weight of social and cultural movements—that vape doesn’t quite garner. Point, Australia.

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