CANBERRA, Australia – A humble barbequed sausage on a slice of bread sold at polling booths around Australia was picked Wednesday as the country's official word of the year — "democracy sausage."
Despite being two words, democracy sausage qualified as the Australian National Dictionary Center's word for 2016 because it was essentially a compound word, the center's director Amanda Laugesen said.
"Democracy is one thing, sausage is another thing but democracy sausage is its own particular thing," Laugesen said.
The term was first recorded in 2012 to describe the ubiquitous beef sausage sandwiches served with onions, ketchup, barbeque sauce or mustard, which are sold at fundraising stalls outside polling booths.
But it gathered momentum in 2016 when Australia had an extraordinarily long two-month federal election campaign that was so close that the result was not known for days.
In a country where many people vote because it is compulsory rather than through any sense of civic duty, some Australians seemed more concerned about the quality of the democracy sausages on offer than the candidates.
Social media and websites directed voters to the best-catered polling booths in their neighborhoods.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull grabbed a pair of tongs and rolled sausages on a grill on election day morning as he mingled with voters at a Sydney polling booth. Opposition leader Bill Shorten bit into one on election day, declaring: "The taste of democracy. Very good."
Shorten confounded some onlookers by biting into the side of the roll instead of the end as is customary. He later said the crusty roll was so big he had to squash it with both hands to fit it in his mouth.
The Australian National University-based dictionary center said its choice for 2016 Word of the Year was based on extensive research and public suggestions.
Short-listed words include "shoey" — the act of drinking an alcoholic beverage from a shoe. The term gained popularity thanks to Australian Formula One racing driver Daniel Ricciardo's habit of celebrating a win by drinking champagne from his shoe.
Despite the popularity of democracy sausages, only 90 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots at the July 2 election, the lowest proportion since voting became compulsory in Australia in 1925. Failure to vote carries a fine.