In an unusual step away from their usual American-centric attitude to everything, Microsoft is updating it’s spellchecker software in its 2007 Office release. The update will, in part, recognise distinctly Australian slang and prevent those irritating red squiggly lines from appearing under words such as ‘bonza’ and ‘dinky-di’. Although the current software only considers ‘di’ a spelling error while it’s quite happy to ignore ‘dinky’. Interestingly, fair dinkum is already ignored by Word 2000.

The top 20 words considered most relevant to everyday Australians were garnered in an online poll that attracted more than 24,000 voters. The top five words were G’day, sickie, ute, trackies and bogan. Sickie is already ignored, but the others all attract that annoying squiggly line. “Although many Australian words and spellings are already included in Microsoft Office, we saw the upcoming release as the ideal opportunity to make sure the Aussie classics weren’t forgotten,” said Microsoft Australia spokesman Tony Wilkinson. “We knew that some quintessential Aussie vernacular was missing.”

A ute

The full list of twenty words, in order of popularity, is:

1. G’day (2,868 votes)
2. Sickie (2,152 votes)
3. Ute (1,912 votes)
4. Trackies (1,597 votes)
5. Bogan (1,557 votes)
6. Dag
7. Sheila
8. Wuss
9. Uluru
10. Galah
11. Jackaroo
12. Dob
13. Bonza
14. Cockie
15. Dinky-di
16. Ugg
17. Waratah
18. Ironman
19. Ridgy-didge
20. Bradman

It really makes me wonder about what Australians consider important. Why on Earth is Bradman in there? When will Australians get over this unhealthy obsession with a sportsman? I’m Australian myself (as well as being English) and I’m a Personal Trainer and Martial Artist, so I have nothing against an obsession with sport. But considering the surname of a dead cricketer to be one of Australia’s twenty most important words is obsession bordering on the insane.

He’s dead. Move on.

The inclusion of jackaroo at number eleven is good, but the exclusion of jillaroo is likely to annoy feminists. However, on just writing that sentence, jillaroo didn’t get a red squiggle. Explain yourselves, Microsoft!

But all this is fairly irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, as there are much more important issues at stake. It’s all very well including Australianisms in the Microsoft spellcheck, but it’s a token effort. (Incidentally, can you believe that spellcheck gets a red squiggly line under it?)

As a writer I’m more concerned about the proliferation of that unholy abomination, American English. It’s fine for Americans if they must drop the ‘u’ out of everything, ignore the actual spelling of aluminium and thrash the letter ‘z’ to within an inch of its life, but what about the rest of us? In England and Australia, countries that still use the English language correctly (slang notwithstanding) we want our correct spelling recognised. The day I stop seeing red squiggles under colour, recognise and humour I’ll consider Microsoft to have apologised and really accept that there are other ways of spelling. Correct ways, that is. When I see a drop-down menu that asks me to select a language for a new application and it has English (English) right under English (American) I’ll be a happy little writer.