Old age revolution in Australian English: Rethinking a taboo concept

Réka Benczes, Kate Burridge, Keith Allan, Farzad Sharifian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


We age from the moment we are born. This is a completely natural process, and yet ageing is now a matter of strong taboo. No one wants to evoke it too vividly, and the fall-out is a flourishing of verbal vanishing creams and linguistic makeovers in the form of euphemism. And yet, as baby boomers are reaching retirement age and wish to remain active for many more decades, they are redefining the concept of ageing considerably (Kalache 2012). This redefinition is all the more relevant in Australia, which has the third highest proportion of people aged over 65 in the world. Using a web-based database of Australian newspapers (http://www.factiva. com) 1987 to 2014 (1987 being the year when the term "successful ageing" entered gerontological literature), we searched for words and expressions related to ageing to support our main hypothesis that ageing is undergoing a major reconceptualization in Australian English.1 Our findings strongly suggest that this reconceptualization of ageing is manifested in: 1) the emergence of novel conceptual categories (the degree of entrenchment of successful ageing as compared to healthy ageing in Australian English; 2) category extension (analysis of the phrase older Australians, which is producing dynamic growth rates in the media as compared to the more established seniors); and 3) novel conceptual metaphors and cultural schemas (as manifested in the naming practices of aged care facilities).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic Taboo Revisited
Subtitle of host publicationNovel Insights from Cognitive Perspectives
EditorsAndrea Pedraza
Place of PublicationBerlin Germany
PublisherWalter de Gruyter
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783110580518, 9783110582758
ISBN (Print)9783110580310
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2018

Publication series

NameCognitive Linguistics Research
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton


  • Ageing
  • Cognitive linguistics
  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Conceptual metonymy
  • Cultural schema
  • Euphemism
  • Reconceptualization
  • Taboo

Cite this