This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nuts and Bolts: Australia's finest.

The English Language isn't really all that English at all. It's full of words borrowed from all over the place (though when I say borrowed I suppose I really mean ruthlessly stolen, for few of them are ever returned).

But look at it this way: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, okay? And we English are prepared to flatter just about everyone. 

Take the Native Australians.

The best-known example of a Native Australian word that's been borrowed by English is probably kangaroo (which DOESN'T mean there he goes! at all. It's a word used by one group of Australians for one particular and rather rare species of large jumping marsupial. The first Aborigine asked about it identified it correctly as a kangaroo, but the second, who happened to speak another language from the first, didn't recognise the word (or the beast). The legend was born in all the following confusion.)

Native Australians have given us wombat, cooee, boomerang and bunyip, too. They're generous guys.

Then there are the words which, in their slippery way, have come to us via Australia, but didn't originate there. Emu comes originally from the Arabic for big bird, didgeridoo is a description of the sound the instrument makes, and goanna was iguana to start with, which is an Arawak word.

Pleasingly, Kylie is a genuinely Native Australian word. It means throwing stick.

I could go on, but bearing in mind that other genuinely Native Australian word, yabber, I won't.

Have a g'day.

Word To Use Today: Australia. This word was first used of the legendary Roman Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown southern land. The word Australia itself was first used for a real place in 1625 - though it wasn't Australia itself, but an island in Vanuatu. Australia wasn't officially Australia until 1824.

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