The Australian National Dictionary Centre

The Australian National Dictionary Centre is jointly funded by Oxford University Press Australia and the Australian National University to research all aspects of Australian English and to publish Australian dictionaries and other works.


Our work with the National Museum of Australia and the cartoonist David Pope led to the publication of three volumes of Aussie English for Beginners in 2002, 2003, and 2004. The Museum has now set up an interactive game of Australian English on their website--see <>. There is also an essay by me on the vocabulary of Australian English, which can be downloaded as a PDF.


We are in search of printed evidence for a number of Australian food terms. Ideally, in the Australian National Dictionary, we aim to have a quotation from a printed source for each decade of a word's existence. Do you have any early cookery books that we may have missed?

Our earliest evidence for chocolate crackle is from a cookery book dated approximately 1940 and called Betty King's Cook Book: 'Why not save yourself hours of baking by high-lighting your hospitality with some of Copha's famous party specials? ... And here they are--all your old favourites, from Chocolate Crackles to Chocolate Biscuit Cake.' The quotation says this is an 'old favourite', so presumably there are earlier examples.

Puzzlingly, the earliest printed evidence for fairy breadis still 1979, in C. Clarke's Children's Party Ideas. Many people claim they can recall the term being used much earlier than this, but the evidence has just not come to light.

Another interesting term is Boston bun, although there is some uncertainty about what exactly it is. A basic feature is that the large bun is iced and sprinkled with coconut. Some recipes call the icing 'Boston icing', although why it should be called this is a mystery. If it is from Boston in the US the American equivalent would be 'Boston frosting', but we can find no evidence of this term. Some Australian recipes call for sultanas and currants to be added to the dough, while others call for mashed potato. Our earliest printed record for this term is 1992.

White Christmas gets its name from its copha outer covering. Our earliest reference is from 1965 in Tested Recipes from C.W.A. of Air: 'White Christmas. ... Place coconut, icing sugar, mixed fruit, nuts, cherries and rice bubbles in mixing bowl and mix well. Warm copha gently until melted and pour over ingredients. Mix well and place in a Swiss roll tin and set in fridge. Serve sliced into fingers.' We have evidence from the 1980s and 1990s. Does anyone have any reference earlier than 1965, or from the 1970s?

We mentioned the Queensland Windsor sausage some years ago, and one of our readers did some wonderful research at Rockhampton Municipal Library on the Lakes Creek Meatworks Archive in the early 1940s. In 1941 a list of cooked sausages included: 'Luncheon Polonie 8d lb. Belgium Sausages 9d . ... Windsor Sausage 11d.' Subsequently we have found a 1937 recipe that uses Windsor sausage, in Davis Dainty Dishes: 'Windsor Sausage in Jelly. ... Arrange slices of sausage round the side of the mould. Fill the centre with slices of sausage, hard-boiled egg or tomato, if liked. Pour the remainder of the liquid over the sausage, and leave to set.' Another use appears in the Courier-Mail in 1991, with an hors d'oeuvre that seems to bounce straight out of the 1960s: 'Take a square of pineapple, add one green, white or red cocktail onion, carefully slice off a chunk of windsor sausage, insert toothpick through all of the above and await the rapturous praise which follows.' Again in the Courier-Mail, this time in 2004, a writer recalls another use for Windsor sausage: 'As a child, my first memory of encountering a bird is of a kookaburra stealing a slice of windsor sausage from my hand as I sat on the back steps of our Red Hill house.' The common account of the origin of this term has it that anti-German sentiment during the First World War led to terms such as German sausage becoming taboo. In 1917 the British Royal family prudently changed its name from the very German Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the very British Windsor , and Queenslanders loyally followed suit by transforming German sausage into Windsor sausage . So we would expect something earlier than 1937. We would also like more evidence from the period 1950 to 1980.

The jubilee cake or jubilee loaf was created in 1936 for South Australia's one hundredth Jubilee year. It is basically a fruitcake. The recipe appears in the 1936 edition of the Green and Gold Cookery Book: 'Jubilee Cake (To be eaten with butter). A cup and a half S.R. flour, one dessertspoon butter, one tablespoon castor sugar, one cup sultanas and currants, lemon peel, one egg, half cup milk, pinch salt. Method--Mix dry ingredients together. Add egg and milk. Bake half an hour. While still hot, pour in two tablespoons icing sugar mixed with milk, and sprinkle with cocoanut.' The same recipe appears in the 1943 edition of this recipe book, but we lack any other evidence from the period 1940 to 1970.

Pikelet in the Australian sense 'a small pancake made by dropping spoonfuls of a leavened batter on to a heated surface' is first recorded in 1916. Our records for this term are quite good, but we are missing a quotation from the 1920s. Similarly, we have records for lamington from 1903 to the present, but we are lacking evidence for the 1920s and 1940s.

Finally, we have a 1961 record for a billycan sponge cake. It reads: 'Billy-can Sponge Cake (Carry it with You). ... Pour mixture into well-greased billy-can. ... Put lid on can and bake in moderate oven for 1 to 1 and ¼ hours.' This is our only record of the term. Has anyone come across it elsewhere?


Among the year 2000 archives of the television program Burke's Backyard there is an article on red cordial, which includes this sentence: 'Red cordial also makes stunning spiders, a great topping for ice-cream, and the best possible Bodgie's Blood (a 50s favourite made with cola instead of water and 1-2 scoops of ice-cream)'. A milk bar in Wauchope, New South Wales, has a website that indicates they supply bodgie's blood. In the Melbourne Herald Sun on 12 May 2000 an article refers to bodgie blood: 'If you're a baby boomer or just appreciate memorabilia, stop at a shop in Daylesford called Lost in the '50s Ice Cream Parlor, where you can enjoy a lime spider, widgie brew, bodgie blood or an ice cream sundae while listening to some good old rock 'n' roll.' These recent references are primarily nostalgic lookings back to the era of bodgies and widgies (this is the only reference we have found to widgie brew). Can anyone locate references to this term from an earlier period?

                                                                                                            BRUCE MOORE