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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Is it defense or defence?

As I was walking through Northlands today I remarked how the Wendys shop had gone. In the new shop I noticed the following sign on most windows.

<<< photo missing >>>

What caught my eye was 'Defense Health'. In America this would be the correct spelling. I wondered if perhaps there was a 'Defense Health' in Australia. It turns out there isn't. It is a spelling error.

The spelling in Australia is 'defence'.

Kelvin Eldridge
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is the word 'ape' racist?

Recently there has been a lot of media attention with regards to the use of the word 'ape' by a 13 year old girl. I have to first say I'm an amateur lexicographer, so my opinion is simply as an ordinary person and not as some expert on the matter.

I've not heard of the word 'ape' being used with a racist meaning and everyone I've asked have also not heard of such use either. There is no doubt the word was used as an insult and insulting others isn't acceptable behaviour. If there is one thing I've learnt from maintaining the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary is you can't make assumptions. You need to read and research words.

If I check the authoritative references for Australia (the Macquarie and Oxford dictionaries) there is no reference with regards to the word 'ape' being a racist word. The best I could find is the online UK Oxford dictionary which indicates one meaning of the word as 'an unintelligent or clumsy person'. That is an insult but not racist.

Now we have to keep in mind communication isn't one way and what someone says (or does) may not be received that way intended. I now understand from reading additional material why Adam Goodes considered the taunt racist.

Sadly in this case two people were affected. A young 13 year-old girl who was taken away and detained for two hours. which any parent would consider wrong and a real concern it could happen. On the other hand Adam was insulted with what he considered a racist slur. There are no winners in that situation.

This reminds me of how easy it is to offend when it comes to not only language but also hand gestures. The hand gesture we use in Australia to indicate 'it is OK' by creating an 'o' with the forefinger and thumb, is considered in some countries to be a very rude gesture.

The lesson for me is from this day on all Australians need to consider that the word 'ape' can be and is considered a very offensive and racist word and should not be used in such a manner. 

Kelvin Eldridge
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