Ask LH: Why Has ‘Teal’ Been Chosen as the Australian Word of the Year?

Ask LH: Why Has ‘Teal’ Been Chosen as the Australian Word of the Year?

In Australia’s most recent election, we witnessed a lot of history being made. We saw the first Labor government win a Federal Election since 2010, and minor parties like Legalise Cannabis Australia saw a record amount of votes, but perhaps the most historic was the number of teal independents who uprooted long-held Liberal seats. Now that feat is being recognised through the 2022 Word of the Year.

Dubbed the ‘teal bath’, the wave of independents who largely campaigned on climate change policies consisted of a large number of female candidates. These women upset previously safe Liberal seats. Former rugby union player David Pocock also unseated a Liberal senator in the ACT.

So, it should come as no surprise that ‘teal’ was chosen as the National Dictionary Centre’s Australian word of the year for 2022.

As such, in this week’s Ask Lifehacker, we’re going to unpack why ‘teal’ was chosen as Word of the Year by the National Dictionary Centre.

What does the 2022 Australian word of the year ‘teal’ mean?

Image: Getty

Obviously, teal is a dark greenish-blue colour (or even a breed of duck), but in Australia’s context, it refers to a political candidate who doesn’t belong to any major party.

The National Dictionary Centre defines teal as:

“Adjective: of or relating to an independent political candidate or politician who adovates for greater integrity in parliament and more action on addressing harmful climate change.”

As mentioned, the word ‘teal’ came to prominence during the 2022 Australian Federal Election, where a record number of independents successfully won seats against government members of parliament belonging to the major parties.

The majority of these independents ran with strong climate change policies and urged for stricter regulation of the government.

‘Teal’ being chosen as the word of the year also signifies a shift in political thinking here in Australia. For a very long time, the only parties people paid attention to were the Liberal or Labor parties and, sometimes, the Greens.

But now, with the increasing risk of climate change-related disasters and concern about political corruption, people are turning away from traditional candidates.

How does the Word of the Year get chosen?

teal word of the year
Image: Getty

The Australian National Dictionary Centre, which is based at ANU, selects a word or expression every year that rose in prominence in Australia that year.

Mark Gwynn, the Senior Researcher at the centre, said that choosing ‘teal’ as the word of the year was a relatively easy choice. This was because of its prominence in the election campaign and how it is still being widely used in Australian political discussions.

“Teal is a word that has become associated with a new and significant movement in Australian politics, and one that is also linguistically productive,” Gwynn said.

The interesting thing about the word teal to describe independent candidates is that not many of them actually use the colour in campaigns.

“The colour came to represent a movement of independent and strong female voices taking on the establishment,” Gwynn said of the centre’s announcement of the Word of the Year.

“As the successful teals begin to establish themselves in the new parliament it will be interesting to see how the term teal evolves or indeed continues at all.”

In previous years the centre’s Word of the Year shortlists have been filled with COVID-19-related phrases and terms. I’m glad that this year has been less focused on the pandemic; I don’t know how much more I can talk about those dark years.

Although this year’s list did include two words that reflect the ongoing social and cultural impact of the pandemic, new trends are more prevalent this year. Words like ‘eshay’ and ‘shrinkflation’ were shortlisted, too.

Teal is also a shortlisted word to win the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2022. If you’d like a say, you can vote in an online poll for your preferred word or term. Personally, I think Bachelors Handbag should take out the top spot.

If you’ve got a burning question that you need answering, send them to us, and we will answer it! Your question could be featured on the next Ask Lifehacker.

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