Monday musings on Australian literature: Silly names for the silly season
It’s nearing Christmas, and I’m getting busy, so today’s Monday musings will be short …
Ever since I started this blog series, I have wanted to write about Australian place names. We are not, I know, the only country to have interesting or fun place names – and I’d love it if you shared your favourites in the comments – but we do have some good’uns Downunder.
Names to make your tonsils chatter
(From “Patter”, by Ronald Oliver Brierley)
Oodnadatta and Parramatta are just the beginning. What about Cabramatta, Wangaratta and Coolangatta? And then there’s Woolloomooloo. You have to concentrate to spell that one! (It’s a bit like, I suppose, Mississippi, isn’t it?) Many of these places appear in Lucky Starr‘s tongue twisting “I’ve been everywhere” song. You can listen to it online if you like… I love all these names. They tend to sound silly and poetic at the same time, and because of this many of them have found (and still find) their way into Australian verse and song.
But, there is a type of name that is rather endemic here, and that is the reduplicated place name. The best known one is probably Wagga Wagga – “Don’t call Wagga Wagga Wagga”* – but it’s just one of many. Here are some of my favourites: Bong Bong, Drik Drik, Gatum Gatum, Grong Grong, Kurri Kurri, Tilba Tilba and Woy Woy. You can find more in Wikipedia. English comedian Spike Milligan‘s parents moved to Woy Woy in the 1950s, and Spike wasn’t above making fun of the town. In his novel Puckoon, he wrote
There is, somewhere in the steaming bush of Australia, a waterside town called Woy Woy (Woy it is called Woy Woy Oi will never know).
Finally, in a related but somewhat different vein, is the poem, “The Integrated Adjective” about the great Australian adjective. If you don’t know what that is, you soon will. The poem was written by John O’Grady, who wrote, under the pseudonym Nino Culotta, the 1957 novel, They’re a weird mob, a comic tale of an Italian migrant’s struggles to understand and fit into his new country. Anyhow, “The Integrated Adjective” is set in a bar and is the narrator’s record of the bar-time talk he overhears:
“…. Been off the bloody booze,
Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos.”
Now the bar was pretty quiet, and everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word.
The town of course is really Tumbarumba, but do we let that spoil our story here? Abso-bloody-lutely not!
*Song by Greg Champion and Jim Haynes.