While “teal” candidates weren’t new in 2022, they dominated the May 2022 federal election. Now they’re dominating Australian dictionary awards, with the Macquarie Dictionary today declaring “teal” its 2022 Word of the Year. This follows the Australian National Dictionary Centre also naming teal its Word of the Year last week. (This isn’t the first time both dictionaries selected the same winner – last year they each gave the gong to “strollout”.)
Prior to 2019, the word “teal” was most commonly used to describe a kind of small freshwater duck or the bright greenish-blue colour – but it came to prominence that year when an independent candidate for the federal seat of Warringah, Zali Steggall, chose the colour for her campaign posters and clothing as a way to stand out in a sea of Labor red and Liberal blue. Steggall went on to oust former prime minister Tony Abbott in what had long been safe Liberal territory.
This year’s federal election was heavily impacted by so-called teal candidates. They didn’t necessarily wear the colour, but, like Steggall, they successfully challenged established figures from the Liberal Party. The word “teal” became a shorthand for a movement of independent political hopefuls – mostly female – taking on Liberal MPs in the party’s heartlands. One of the most high-profile success stories was Allegra Spender, who defeated Liberal incumbent Dave Sharma in the New South Wales seat of Wentworth.
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The Macquarie Dictionary defines a teal as an “independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritising of integrity in politics.”
The dictionary has also announced its 2022 People’s Choice winner: “bachelor’s handbag”, a colloquialism used to describe a supermarket roast chicken packed in a small plastic bag with handles. “Such a chicken requires no further preparation before consumption, so is seen as an easy meal favoured by a single person,” according to the dictionary.
Each year, the Macquarie selects a committee to discuss the new words that have entered the dictionary over the past year. The committee says bachelor’s handbag is “a funny, clever coinage – so quintessentially Australian, summing up the role of a barbeque chook perfectly”.
Other words on the People’s Choice shortlist included “yassify”, a verb meaning to apply “multiple filters and edits to (an image or digital photograph), in order to transform the original image to one which is glamorous and beautiful”. There was also “barbiecore”, “a fashion characterised by an all-pink colour palette, especially bright pink”, and “clapter”, meaning “applause from an audience to indicate agreement with a comedian’s joke or statement, especially one of a social or political nature”.