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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The usage by schools of the word incursion, may be considered incorrect uage by some.

I first heard the term 'incursion' at Templestowe Park Primary School. To me there just seemed to be something wrong with the usage. I now see the usage has continued for over a decade.
Many words can have multiple meanings and I have in the past been quite surprised when I've found a word I thought I knew well, that actually had other meanings I was not aware of. Is this the case with incursion?

The word incursion according to The Australian Oxford Dictionary , Second Edition, means 'an invasion or attack, especially when sudden or brief'.

Now when a bunch of school children all board a tram at once it certainly feels like an incursion, but in this case schools are using the word to mean an excursion which takes place at the school. That is, 'in' is replacing 'ex' to mean of an activity held at the school, as compared with outside of the school.

The online Oxford dictionary makes no reference to incursion with regards to an educational activity. The Australian Oxford Dictionary doesn't make such a reference either. However, the Macquarie dictionary does include the additional meaning for incursion as, 'an educational activity in which an artist, educator, etc., visits a school to give a demonstration, etc., of their specialty'.

Could it be that what was once a simple play on words has become another meaning for the word?

Care should be used when using the word referencing an internal activity, because that usage would normally not be considered correct.

What is interesting, is we now have a generation of students who have grown up using the word and when that happens, and enough people know the alternate meaning for a word, that word and the new meaning becomes part of the vernacular.

Kelvin Eldridge
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Is it shoveller or shoveler?

As I was reviewing words to go into, or to be removed from Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer 10, I noticed shoveller being marked as a spelling error in Microsoft Office applications, but not shoveler.

Initially I thought it was simply another error with Microsoft's dictionary including the American spelling and not the Australian spelling for a word. But this time it turns out to be a little more complicated.

The spelling shoveller does need to be included and will be. A shoveller is someone who shovels, such as a person who shovels snow.

Normally in the situation of an American spelling the result is the single 'l' version of the word is removed, but not in this case. It turns out that shoveler is a type of bird found in America and Eurasia.

I did found one reference in Wikipedia, The shovelers, formerly known as shovellers, are four species of dabbling ducks with long, broad spatula-shaped beak", so it does appear there has also been a change in the British spelling as well. However Wikipedia isn't a good authoritative reference for Australians as I've found many errors over time and Wikipedia doesn't make it easy to identify the preferred Australian English spelling.

The Oxford online (British dictionary) shows the following under origin.

late Middle English (denoting a spoonbill): alteration of earlier shovelard, from shovel, perhaps influenced by mallard

I then used Google UK and limited pages to UK sites. The spelling usage for shoveler duck when compared to shoveller duck is two to one. This supports the greater use of shoveler duck as the preferred spelling in the UK and also for Australians. I did this test to reduce the effect of American spelling on search results.

In summary, both shoveller and shoveler need to be included in the Australian dictionary, but it is important to note the spelling with the single 'l' refers to a duck.

Kelvin Eldridge