The short-priced favourite that ran second in this year’s Melbourne Cup was a horse called ‘incentivise’. But is that a real word? Yes, it is, and it’s ours and it’s political. You won’t find incentivise in any of the great international dictionaries. It’s not in the Oxford, the Websters, the Collins. But it is in our own Macquarie Dictionary and in the Australian edition of the Oxford. That’s because it was coined here, and (so far) is only used here. It was coined by John Howard for the 2005 federal election—announcing policies designed to incentivise aspirational Australians. And it was Howard’s second contribution to the Australian language: he has also given us ‘barbecue stopper’ (for the debate that makes everyone forget the sausages beginning to burn on the barbie, as they engage in heated discussion). By the way, wouldn’t it be nice to find a political leader today who wanted to incentivise people rather than ‘cabin, crib and confine’ them?
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Contact Kel at ozwords.com.au
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