A lexicographer's AO


Dictionary editing is, on the whole, a quiet affair.  News and publicity photographers over the years have struggled to make something interesting out of me sitting – initially in front of a typewriter and filing cards, later at a computer, and failed. The most enterprising one that I can remember had me standing on one of the mound outside Building W6 at Macquarie University. I had to hold a dictionary – a big one – in each hand and, on command, lightly and gracefully throw the dictionaries up into the air.

 And then scramble to catch them, although the photographer didn’t care about that bit.

 So you would think that dictionary editors are not cut out to get honours from their country. They are not heroic enough, audacious enough, even just noticeable enough. But last Thursday I was presented with an AO at Government House.  

 All this fell to me because it was part of my role to be the visible presence of the dictionary in the media, its spokesperson and voice in the public domain.  I threw the dictionaries in the air, I fended off the media attack on addition of misogyny, and said fuckwit on breakfast TV. So I think that some part of the process of giving this honour to me – and I am very honoured and grateful – is to express the value that the community places on Macquarie Dictionary. They can’t actually make a dictionary an Officer of the Order of Australia so they grab hold of the person they associate with the dictionary instead.

 It is nice to know the community at large appreciates the work that many editors over the years have done in keeping the complete record of our language, as we say so often.  The chief responsibility for carrying on that task falls to the new Editor, Alison Moore.

 And so celebrations all round.

And thanks.y

Sue Butler1 Comment