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‘Kwaussie’: Dual citizen saga behind Australia’s word of 2017

Australian politician Barnaby JoyceImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Barnaby Joyce was the year’s most prominent “kwaussie”

The term “kwaussie” – a hybrid of Kiwi and Aussie – has been named Australia’s word of the year.

The portmanteau came to prominence in 2017 through the nation’s dual citizenship political saga, said the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

It describes a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand – as was the case with Australia’s deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce was removed from office in October for being a kwaussie.

He won back his seat in a by-election on Saturday after renouncing his New Zealand citizenship. Under Australia’s constitution, politicians cannot be dual citizens.

“Kwaussie was used to describe the most high-profile casualty of the crisis, deputy prime minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce,” said Dr Amanda Laugesen, the dictionary centre director.

“In a time of covfefe, fake news, and tweetstorms, the Australian National Dictionary Centre has looked for a word of the year that is both lexically interesting and Australian.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The term kwaussie was first used to describe actor Russell Crowe

Although popularised by the political saga, the word can also refer to a New Zealander living in Australia, or a person of Australian and New Zealand descent, she said.

Friendly rivalry between Australia and New Zealand has often led to minor quibbles over claims to famous citizens.


Famous ‘kwaussies’

  • Russell Crowe: The first usage of kwaussie was found in a 2002 profile of the New Zealand-born actor, a long-time resident of Australia, Dr Laugesen said.
  • Keith Urban: The country music star was born in New Zealand but established his success in Australia, before making it big in Nashville.
  • Jane Campion: The Oscar-winning director of The Piano and Top of the Lake was born in New Zealand but studied in Australia, where she has also found success.
  • Barnaby Joyce: Australia’s deputy prime minister was disqualified from office after a court ruled he was a New Zealand national by descent.
  • Scott Ludlam:An Australian senator who lost his job in July, after revealing he had never relinquished New Zealand citizenship.

Dr Laugesen said kwaussie was primarily used in Australia and on social media to refer to Mr Joyce and Mr Ludlam, and the eligibility saga.

Last year, “democracy sausage” was chosen as Australia’s word of the year – a nod to a local election-day tradition.

In November, dictionary publisher Collins chose the phrase “fake news” as its word of the year.

The runners-up

The Australian National Dictionary Centre said the words shortlisted in 2017 reflected many events that shaped the nation’s political, cultural and social landscape:

  • Makarrata: (in traditional Aboriginal culture) A ceremonial ritual that aims to restore peace after a dispute, the term has been suggested as an alternative name for a treaty process.
  • Jumper punch: (from Australian Rules football) A punch disguised as the action of grabbing hold of the opponent’s jumper.
  • Postal survey: A survey conducted by post; largely in reference to Australia’s non-binding poll on legalising same-sex marriage.
  • Robodebt: A reference to a local scandal that saw Australians incurring debt through an automated programme.
  • WAxit: A term for a proposal – which did not gain much traction – for Western Australia to secede from the nation.

BBC News – World

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