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Oct 13, 2003
This week's theme
Words originating in Australia

This week's words

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with Anu Garg

This week's guest wordsmith Eric Shackle writes:

When British naval officer and explorer Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay, near Sydney, in 1770, Australia's indigenous people, the Aborigines, had never seen a white man. Numerous tribes spoke a wide variety of languages, many now extinct.

Kangaroo was the first and best-known borrowing of an Aboriginal word into English, according to the Australian National Dictionary Centre:

"In 1770, when Captain Cook was forced to make repairs to the Endeavour in north Queensland, he and his party saw a number of large marsupials. From the local Aborigines Cook elicited kangaroo or kanguru as the name of one of the animals. This was in the Guugu Yimidhirr language of Cooktown. The Aborigines gave the name for a species of kangaroo - the large black or grey kangaroo Macropus robustus. Cook mistakenly thought that this was a general or generic term for all kangaroos (and even wallabies), and this is how the word came into English."

This week, we'll discuss five other words that originated in Australia.

(This week's Guest Wordsmith, Eric Shackle, is a retired journalist who has written for the New York Times, the Straits Times (Singapore), the Sydney Morning Herald, and many other newspapers. He is also copy editor for AWAD, and lives near Sydney, Australia. Anu Garg is traveling in Asia.)


(FUR-fee) Pronunciation

noun: A rumor; false story.

From John Furphy, an Australian blacksmith and engineer, who designed a galvanised iron water-cart on wheels, displaying the name FURPHY in large letters. In World War I the Army bought many Furphy water and sanitation carts for camps in Palestine, Egypt. and Australia. When soldiers gathered around them, the carts became centers of gossip. The word scuttlebutt originated in a similar way.

"Bookmakers are confident in the integrity of the AFL and the security used to guard the Brownlow Medal votes, believing any leaks are mere gossip and unfounded. Centrebet spokesman Gerard Daffy said last week's leak tipping St Kilda midfielder Robert Harvey winning a third Brownlow was a furphy."
Darren Cartwright; Voss Still Brownlow Favourite; Fox Sports; Sep 18, 2003.

"If it is proved that the bugs originated from space, then the damage to the ozone layer may also have originated from space. This will render the ozone theory a furphy."
Rob Horne; Bugs in Space?; The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia); Aug 3, 2001.


A book is a story for the mind. A song is a story for the soul. -Eric Pio, poet

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