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Matildas: Football fever inspires word of the year

The soaring popularity of Australia’s women’s soccer team has prompted the Australian National University (ANU) to dub “Matilda” as its 2023 word of the year.

Australians were transfixed by the Matildas’ semi-final run in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in August as well as their recent qualifiers for next year’s Paris Olympic Games, prompting experts from ANU’s Australian National Dictionary Centre to pick the team name.

That includes the singular (Matilda), plural (Matildas), and shorter nickname form (Tillies).

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Federal Sport Minister Anika Wells speaks as Matildas fans gather to show their support at a community reception in Brisbane. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire
Federal Sport Minister Anika Wells speaks as Matildas fans gather to show their support at a community reception in Brisbane. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire

Centre director Amanda Laugesen said this year’s choice was easy given the massive popularity of the team and the growth of interest in women’s team sports.

“From the 1880s matilda was one of the names for a swag, a bag of possessions carried by an itinerant man looking for work. These days most people would only know this in relation to the song Waltzing Matilda,” Dr Laugesen said.

“It’s only since the mid-1990s that the women’s soccer team has been called the Matildas, but after this year’s World Cup the word has once again cemented itself in the Australian lexicon.”

Matildas players Mary Fowler, Steph Catley, and Sam Kerr with singer Nikki Webster. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire
Matildas players Mary Fowler, Steph Catley, and Sam Kerr with singer Nikki Webster. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire

She said although the exact origins of the term matilda in Australian English were unclear, it ultimately came from the female name.

“The original German name refers to strength in battle, so it’s an appropriate name for a team that has inspired so many people this year, particularly young women and girls,” Dr Laugesen said.

The shortlist for word of the year was dominated by terms relating to October’s Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum.

“Noer” and “yesser” were both considered (someone who voted no and yes, respectively), as was ‘truth-telling’: acknowledging and recognising the historical and ongoing mistreatment and injustices affecting Indigenous peoples in Australia.

The popularity of the Matildas in 2023 has prompted the ANU to pick ‘Matilda’ as its word of the year. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire
The popularity of the Matildas in 2023 has prompted the ANU to pick ‘Matilda’ as its word of the year. Picture: Dan Peled / NCA NewsWire

“Hallucinate”, used in the context of the rampant growth of artificial intelligence technology, defined as “to generate false or inaccurate information and present it as fact”, rounded out the list,

“Voice” was ANU’s word of the year in 2019.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre researches Australian English in partnership with Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand and edits Oxford’s Australian dictionaries.

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https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/football-fever-inspires-anus-word-of-the-year/news-story/a96674564815ab1f1cb6bee5dc34bfd2 Matildas: Football fever inspires word of the year

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