Mat McLachlan Profile picture
Apr 25 17 tweets 3 min read
The spelling of the word ‘Anzac’ has caused some heated discussion this week - I’ve even seen some posts which imply it’s somehow disrespectful to not spell it ‘ANZAC’. So I thought it was worth breaking it down, both from a historic and linguistic perspective…
(It’s odd that this is even a discussion, given that the conclusion I’m about to describe is effectively universal - I couldn’t find a single authoritative source in Australia or NZ that doesn’t share this view.)…
It is true that ‘ANZAC’ was originally an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the military force that fought at Gallipoli. But from the earliest use of the word (even before the Gallipoli landing) it was often being spelled ‘Anzac’…
Probably because the word just works so well (has there ever been a better-sounding acronym?) it was soon applied in a range of situations at Gallipoli that extended beyond the name of the Army Corps that originally sprouted it.
The most obvious examples are ‘Anzac Cove’ for the beach where the force first landed, ‘Anzac’ for the entire Aus/NZ area of operations (in addition to Helles and Suvla) and, most notably, ‘Anzacs’ as a term used by the men themselves to describe someone who fought at Gallipoli..
On the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in 1916, communities on both sides of the Tasman held commemorative services they called ‘Anzac Day’.
So it’s clear that, from its earliest days, usage of the word ‘Anzac’ extended far beyond references to the original Army Corps, and that is what has shaped guidelines for its use today...
Authorities such as the AWM, DVA and NZ’s Ministry for Culture and Heritage agree that ‘ANZAC’ should only be used to refer to the military force that fought at Gallipoli (a situation most modern writers would rarely find themselves in)…
It would be correct to say, for example, ‘The runner delivered a message to ANZAC headquarters’, or ‘General Birdwood, the ANZAC commander’. All other Anzac-related words (Anzac Day, Anzac biscuits, the Anzacs, etc) should be lower-case, with an upper-case ‘A’…
When you think about it, using the acronym for the Army Corps in other contexts doesn’t make sense. It’s not an Australian and New Zealand Army Corps biscuit, for example, and we don’t commemorate Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day, which would suggest that…
veterans who didn’t fight at Gallipoli are excluded, a sentiment that is obviously the opposite of what the day is all about…
The Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park in Sydney specifically addresses this point, stating that ‘It is a memorial to the men and women who called themselves Anzacs. It is not the ANZAC Memorial as it is not a memorial to the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps.’…
The belief that, because it was originally an acronym it should always be upper-case, is incorrect linguistically as well. Acronyms that are widely-used in English typically lose their all-caps spelling…
If they didn’t, we would be flying on QANTAS airways, diving with a SCUBA tank and navigating using RADAR. It’s clear from reading that sentence that using all-caps for familiar acronyms is jarring and interrupts the smooth flow of a sentence. It’s the same with the word ‘Anzac’.
At the end of the day, there are specific historic and linguistic reasons for knowing the difference between ‘ANZAC’ and ‘Anzac’…
Suggestions that it’s somehow inappropriate to spell it any way other than ‘ANZAC’ are not only wrong, but they run counter to the spirit of inclusiveness and respect that Anzac Day has promoted since we first commemorated it.
I’ve just done a search for the word ‘Anzac’ in 1915 newspapers. It’s very difficult to find it in uppercase, with the exception of headings. ‘A & NZAC’ can be found, which reinforces that ‘Anzac’ was so commonly used they needed to distinguish it from the Corps. #AnzacDay

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