Australia’s Word of the Year is a colorful nod to the teal wave of independents that swept the federal election

It was dubbed a “teal bath” when a wave of independents, campaigning primarily on climate change, wrestled away long-held Liberal seats in May 2022.

The wave of female teal candidates, comprising of Zoe Daniel, Kate Chaney, Zali Steggall, Sophie Scamps, Monique Ryan, Kylea Tink and Allegra Spender, made headlines by sweeping to victory over their mostly male Liberal competitors, in what had once been viewed as safe seats for the party.

The teal bath was also swept along by former rugby union star David Pocock, who unseated seemingly rusted-on Liberal senator Zed Seselja.

In a nod to these history-making wins at the federal election, the National Dictionary Center today announced “teal” as the Word of the Year.

A ‘linguistically productive’ word

The label “teal candidate” originated from the color of some candidates’ T-shirts, but soon took on a much larger meaning.

And it continues to be used months after election night.

The National Dictionary Centre’s senior researcher, Mark Gwynn, said it was an easy choice this year.

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

“It is used as a noun to refer to individual candidates or representatives, and as a modifier in numerous compounds, including teal candidate, teal independent, teal revolution, teal seat, teal volcano and teal wave — to name just a few.”

A woman stands smiling outdoors with a crowd of supporters behind her holding signs with her face.
Independent Sophie Scamps became the Member for Mackellar in the 2022 federal election.(Twitter: Sophie Scamps)

Mr Gwynn said the candidates came to represent much more than a colour.

“The interesting aspect of this term is that many of the so-called teal candidates did not use this color in their campaign,” he said.

“The color came to represent a movement of independent and strong female voices taking on the establishment.

“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.”

Shortlist a summary of the year that was

Teal was chosen ahead of a shortlist of similarly colorful phrases that speak to the issues that confronted Australians throughout 2022.

In previous years, the winning word was a nod to COVID-19 and its indelible mark on society. Last year, it was “strollout”, in reference to the pace at which vaccines were rolled out across the country.

And the pandemic lived on in this year’s shortlist, including with the selection of “cooker”, described by the center as “a derogatory term for a person involved in protests against vaccine mandates, lockdowns and a range of other issues perceived to be infringing on personal freedom”.

“Quiet quitting” was also shortlisted — a movement where an employee decides not to work beyond the hours and duties specified for their role.

Another shortlisted word was “eshay”, otherwise known as “a teenager or young man who is part of a group associated with anti-social behavior and characterized by the wearing of certain brand-label clothing”.

And finally, “shrinkflation” was chosen in the wake of significant economic turmoil, including rising inflation and interest rates.

The center said that word described “the reduction in the size, quantity or quality of a pre-packaged product while pricing remains the same or increases”.

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