These are some popular presentations that I have given over the years. Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to give a talk on any of the following topics, or if you would like to suggest a talk that you might like me to give.
A fun way of looking at the history of Australian English, from convict days to the present day, with examples of words and expressions we have acquired from London slang, British dialects, and American English. Our first lexicographer, the gentleman convict, James Hardy Vaux, gets a special mention.
The food lexicon of Australian English
The linkage between language and culture is always fascinating for the lexicographer to explore, and never more so when the focus is on food. The search for these words in Australian English reveals not just information about the words in question but also the attitudes of the community to food at different times in our history. We begin with what was edible in convict days and work up to more genteel colonial afternoon teas. We discover Henry Lawson’s loathing of the Christmas pudding, and review – and perhaps revise – our food icons. Lastly we take note of modern preoccupations.
The history of the Macquarie Dictionary
As the person who was Executive Editor for the first edition of the dictionary, and Editor for the seventh edition published just before my retirement in 2017, I can give the details of the dictionary’s success as well as personal anecdotes of my experiences as one of Australia’s leading lexicographers.
The greatest wordsmiths in the English language
In my years as a dictionary editor I have found that one thing that stirs the imagination of an audience and puts a certain light in their eyes is the notion that they might make up a word that gets into the dictionary.
This is a review of the claims made for Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens as great coiners of new words in the English language, which attempts to sort fact from exaggeration, and to honour writers who have contributed to our store of words while not feeling the need to claim more for them than is their due.
The power of the dictionary
TEDxSydney talk 2017
People feel that as Editor of the dictionary, I have wielded enormous power. Words have gone into the dictionary or not on my say-so. But in fact the reverse is true. For better or worse, I obey the decisions made by the community. Some people wish that I had laid down the law more often, but the language follows its own paths and it is the role of the dictionary to record, not to dictate.