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How Canberra Chaos Inspired The 'Word Of The Year'

Knifings, sackings, backroom coups and a heap of belly-gazing -- the drama in federal politics has taken out a dubious honour.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre has named ‘Canberra bubble’ as its word of the year, a phrase popularised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he tried to deflect criticism of his role in the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.

Yes, before we go any further, 'Canberra bubble' is the word of the year despite technically being two words. Stick with us as we explain.

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There's long been talk of a 'bubble' around federal parliament.

Thousands of politicians, staff, advisers, journalists, lobbyists and more descend on the nation's capital during each parliamentary sitting week, spending most of their time in that big white house on the hill.

Those inside the so-called bubble spend the day talking about politics, talking to politicians, talking about politicians, having lunch and dinner and coffee and drinks with other people who talk and worry about politicians.

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

People worry about this leading to politicians and politicos getting stuck in their own endless feedback loop, worrying more about the latest tweet or Sky News interview than what real Australians need and care about.

But Morrison weaponised the phrase to shrug off questions from Labor and journalists about why Turnbull was ousted from office.

READ MORE: It's Now OK To Twerk On A Scrabble Board

"That’s just more Canberra bubble chatter," Morrison has said in response to questions.

"The Canberra bubble is the Canberra bubble, I’m not distracted by it," he told one journalist.

"I'm glad to be out of the Canberra bubble," Morrison said on his recent Queensland bus trip.

Morrison tries to use the phrase to signal to voters he isn't caught up in the internal petty politics and bickering of Canberra that ordinary people hate so much -- the sort of politics that has led us to a revolving door Prime Ministership and claims of a "toxic" political culture.

“The ‘Canberra bubble’ is what happens down here when people get all caught up with all sorts of gossip and rubbish and that’s probably why most of you switch off any time you hear a politician talk”, the PM said in a recent social media video.

It's a useful phrase as he tries to put himself above the fray, to claim he's more of an 'everyman', the type of guy that likes footy and pies and baseball caps rather than backroom coups and power grabs.

“I think it also reflects the notion that across Australia there is some disenchantment with politics, and that politicians are more preoccupied with the goings-on in Canberra than the everyday concerns of Australians," Australian National Dictionary Centre director, Dr Amanda Laugesen said.

She said, politics is always a great contributor to Aussie language.

“Canberra bubble is a term that increased in usage significantly through 2018, and it was noticeable that this year Prime Minister Scott Morrison used ‘Canberra bubble’ to define his politics."

"However, critics point out that the Prime Minister is very much inside the Canberra bubble."

In 2017, 'Kwaussie' got the gong describing ‘a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand; a New Zealander living in Australia; a person of Australian and New Zealand descent’.

The year before the 'democracy sausage' sizzled it's way tot he top of the list. It was defined as 'a barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day’.

(Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

This year, Morrison's favourite new catchphrase beat out a list of other contenders including:

  • bag rage: ‘anger provoked in a customer by the removal of free plastic bags at the checkout’
  • blockchain: ‘a system in which records are maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network, used especially for cryptocurrency transactions’
  • drought relief: ‘financial or practical assistance given to those in special need or difficulty due to severe drought conditions’
  • fair dinkum power: ‘dispatchable energy; coal, as contrasted with renewable sources of energy’
  • NEG: ‘National Energy Guarantee; a regulatory obligation imposed on energy companies to provide a reliable supply of energy while meeting emissions reduction targets’

Featured image: Getty

Contact the author: jbutler@networkten.com.au