Lauren Gawne writes:
Every three months the Oxford English Dictionary announces
a brace [Thanks to pedants Terry Reilly and Cyberfish – Ed.] a bevy of words that have found a new and legitimising home in its venerable list. This quarter there were such excellent additions as bling, dance-off and Super PAC, as well as those that show what a technological world we live in, like cybercast, BitTorrent and paywall. But there is one word we can be especially proud of in this installment, because bogan has made the cut. It’s a word that has been in both the Australian National Dictionary and the Macquarie dictionary for some time but has only just made it into the hallowed pages of the OED.
bogan, n. An unfashionable, uncouth, or unsophisticated person, esp. regarded as being of low social status.
This captures some of the sense of being a bogan – and let’s not deny that any Australian English native speakers has a very keen sense of who they think of as a bogan (if your bogan sensibilities aren’t that strong may I direct you to Things Bogans Like as a good overview). For me though, this misses out on the fact that many who are labeled bogans aren’t necessarily of low socio-economic status. As Fully (Sic) regular Piers Kelly pointed out back in 2008, conspicuous consumerism is a key part of much of the cashed up bogan-ness of Kath and Kimor the early days of the Bec Cartwright and Lleyton Hewitt marriage.The definition also doesn’t quite capture the fact that being a bogan is quite a relative thing, not to mention that there are a lot of people out there who are proud to identify as bogan (hello to my brother if he’s reading this).
The earliest citation that the OED give for bogan is from a 1985 edition of surfing magazine ‘Tracks’ – which is the earliest citation found by the Australian National Dictionary Project. The origin of bogan is still shrouded in mystery. There was an episode of Lingua Franca a few years ago where it was suggested that it may be an Indigenous Australian borrowing, and the Wikipedia page on bogans suggested a fairly spurious link to Scots Gaelic bòcan (a mythical mischief-making beast). The best guess of the OED is that it relates to the surname Bogan. The term not only had currency in Australia, where it appears to have started life, but also New Zealand.
It’s great to have a local word make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but it’s also an indication that it has become the general term in Australia and New Zealand for the most dinky-di representatives of what we like to think of as our uncultured culture. It has taken over bevan in Queensland, and to a large extent replaced the word feral in many a Victorian’s vocab. The Macquarie also lists a few other colourful synonyms you’d be less likely to hear these days, including barry, boonie, bog (WA), charnie bum (ACT), chigger (Tas), mocca (Melb), scozzer (Vic) and westie (Syd).
Bogan, an iconic item of the local vernacular, has achieved recognition in the global pantheon of English, joining the ranks of internationally recognised Australian words such as ambo, barbie, f-ckwit and goolies, and we at Fully (sic) feel a bit more pride that a word so dear to our hearts has finally been accepted by the good folks at Oxford.