‘Shirtfront’ named Australia’s word of the year in 2014

Canberra, Dec 10:

“Shirtfront” has been named Australia’s 2014 word of the year, the Australian National University announced Wednesday on behalf of the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

The centre, based at the university, selected shirtfront after the word rose to prominence when Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to “shirtfront” Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

According to the centre, shirtfront is a verb chiefly used in Australian rules football, meaning to deliver an aggressive front-on bump to an opponent, or a verb figuratively used to mean to challenge or confront (a person).

It was chosen from a shortlist including the terms “Team Australia,” “man-bun”, “Ned Kelly beard”, and “coward punch”, according to Xinhua.

“‘Shirtfront’ was little known outside of its sporting context, as a type of hip and shoulder bump of an opponent in Australian rules football, and in rugby where it refers to grabbing an opponent’s jersey,” Australian National Dictionary Centre Director Amanda Laugesen said.

The figurative use has been around for some years, however, Abbott’s threat to shirtfront Putin, and the word itself, was widely discussed and satirised in the Australian and international media.

“After the G20 summit in Brisbane, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both used the term in jest in their speeches to the Australian parliament,” she said.

“Whether the figurative use of the term remains in popular use will be interesting to see.”

Laugesen said the Abbott government also contributed “Team Australia” to the lexicon as well as a number of other terms that did not make the shortlist, including “budget emergency” and “lifters and leaners”.

Social and cultural trends over 2014 saw the development of the “man-bun,” a hairstyle worn by a man where hair is drawn into a coil at the back of the head.

“The style became popular among young urban men and hipsters and celebrities such as Chris Hemsworth and Harry Styles,” she said.

The “Ned Kelly beard”, a full beard sported by many young men is a beard reminiscent of that worn by bushranger Ned Kelly.

“Coward punch”, a knockout punch or blow delivered from behind, had significant prominence early in the year after a series of tragic incidents.

“There was a campaign to replace the Australian English term king-hit with a term considered to better suggest the cowardly nature of the attack,” Laugesen said.

“Whether ‘coward punch’ successfully replaces king-hit in Australian English remains to be seen.”

Laugesen said this year was unusual in that people did not see many new technology or social media words rise to significant prominence in Australia, although terms such as “metadata” and “data retention” increased in exposure and public debate. (IANS)

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