A Sideways Glance at the Hidden Meaning of Aussie Place Names

There are many place names around the world that cry out to tell you their true meaning. Well, perhaps not their ridgey didge true meaning, but who has ever looked at the name Footscray and not felt that it probably also exists as an entry in a medical dictionary? Or Patchewollock, or Humpty Doo? Exactly.

This work attempts to do for (or to) Australian place names what Douglas Adams and John Lloyd did for Britain and the rest of the world, in The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff.

Words by Duncan Waldron, illustrations by Matt Davis.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


See Why am I doing this? for something approaching a motive.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dabyminga - Durong

Dabyminga n
The process by which a toddler leaves fingermarks upon a window or mirror.

Dandenong v
To saunter casually around town hoping to learn secrets or snippets of tasty gossip, which may be then spread without further ado.

Danglemah Loop n
Any circumstance in which a juvenile male is found, in a private state of undress, holding a measuring instrument of some sort.

Darawank n
The sort of person who studies the plans for nuclear devices on the internet, with no clear intention to build any such weapon. Such a person will spend at least 3% of their life engaged in forwarding humorous emails to ‘friends’, without adding any personal greeting whatsoever.

Dickygundi n
An abdominal strain caused by trying to avoid creating a Bethungra (qv).

Dingo Pocket n
The tiny pocket in a pair of jeans, big enough to take a single coin, but too small for the coin to be subsequently extracted without removing knuckle skin.

Dooboobetic n, adj
A sufferer of Dooboobetes, a debilitating condition in which odd rhythms occur in the victim’s nervous system, triggering erratic movement of the arms and hands, and/or strange involuntary noises from the mouth. Many victims find rehabilitation in avant-garde jazz bands.

Drumanure n
Prepackaged natural organic fertiliser, provided in quantities suitable for the hobby farmer.

Dungog n

The mental state of anyone who carries out a very difficult task with unexpected ease, and doesn’t quite believe it. Often happens during a dry run, and never again afterwards.

Dunkernucking v
Mistaking "you must not" for "you may, if you wish, and as often as you like".

Durong v
What a person does, when they choose to be unaware of the meaning of the word ‘no’. Related to Dunkernucking.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cooee - Currawong

Cooee n
The quiet joy felt discreetly by a bookseller who has just sold another book to a regular customer, whom he knows has already passed Buckenderra (qv).

Cookamidgera n
Someone who maintains that a broken biscuit will not taste the same as a whole one, and therefore steadfastly refuses to eat it.

Coolangatta n
The feeling, when you wake in the night, that a very small part of your body is much colder than it should be.

Coolongolook n
The urge to check artistically undraped statuettes for intimate anatomical detail. Usually felt by people who suffer Ettamogah (qv).

Cooriemungle v
To behave like a scarecrow, audibly.

Corringle v
To grin like a Darawank (qv).

Cosmo Newberry n
1. When a gardener, who lovingly tends his buds, blooms or prize vegetables, does not recognize the sprouting greenery that he planted as seed last month, and which is clearly not what was on the packet, he is said to have grown a Cosmo Newberry. It will be quite delightful and most likely bear very tempting fruit, but will not be found in any horticultural encyclopaedia.
2. The jacket, trousers, or other item of outer clothing that, although appealing when bought, appears to be a very bad mistake when actually worn for the first time; this fact will usually be made very clear by a spouse. Temporary colour-blindness is normally the best defence.

Countegany v
To use a computer for a task that could be carried out at least 3.1415927 times faster using a pencil and paper. The amount of time wasted on Countegany worldwide would be sufficient to allow the cows to come home, the long way.

Crooble v
To use the word "oops", when "yes that’s right, I do remember you telling me not to do that" would be more honest.

Currabubula n (med)
A form of amnesia brought about by excessive drinking, manifested by the utterance, yet again, of the expression "I’ll never do that again". cf Merrywinebone.

Currawong n
The desire to drive the wrong way round an empty roundabout while sober. cf Euston.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Caboolture - Connewirrecoo

Caboolture n
Any suspicious mouldy growth in a taxi, a week after it has carried a vomiting drunk.

Catumnal adj
Descriptive of the time of year in which the cat decides that summer is over, and you should now light the open fire, please.

Chain of Lagoons n
Three or more concurrent instances of Bacchus Marsh (qv), in the same vicinity.

Chorkerup exclam
A request to provide goods on credit.

1. v To habitually misspell a word again and again on the computer, repeating the error perfectly each time. This can give rise to a paranoid concern about (i) your ability to spell, or (ii) a brain tumour.
2. n A false claim to belong to an ancient Celtic clan, and therefore to have the right to wear the kilt, eat haggis bare-handed and toss the caber on common ground.

Clontarf n
A pathetic expanse of grass, virtually destroyed by informal juvenile football games, drought, etc, especially if adjacent to an immaculately kept lawn.

Cocklebiddy n
A pleasantly inebriated person, who has reached the friendly but unstable stage.

Coffs Harbour n
The source of the minuscule amounts of tenacious mucous that are responsible for the sort of pathetic, tickly cough that is impossible to get rid of in one triumphant, satisfying "harrumph", such as a Euroka Clearing (qv).

Connangorach n
A proud fondness for porridge, especially where salt is the only embellishment.

Connewirrecoo n
Any question asked in a strange and utterly unintelligible dialect or accent, for which no answer will be convincing enough to save face. cf Barnie Bolac, Tullochgorum.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Borroloola - Burdekin’s Gap

Borroloola n
The act of borrowing a pen, stapler, etc, from a colleague, and conveniently forgetting to return it. cf Penwortham.

Bothwell n
The general term for any accumulation of detritus, debris, or neglected possessions, that tend to inhabit tight spaces. Examples of Bothwell include mangled paper clips in the back corners of desk drawers, matted grass cuttings under the mower, or paper tissues left in a trouser pocket before being washed. Vintage Bothwell may occasionally be found in the pockets of jackets purchased from charity shops. To be of any commercial value, Bothwell must be from the Iron Age or earlier.

Bribie Island n
The moment of isolation, when a public figure has been implicated in a sleazy corruption scandal and stands alone in the full glare of voracious media exposure, his accomplices having quietly slipped away.

Brimboal n
The ancient and delicate art of carrying more than 43 items in a hand basket while shopping, without either dropping any or gouging someone else’s bare leg with the corner of a box of cornflakes. Brimboal is usually unplanned in its execution, with the shopper usually going in for just 5 or 6 items, then remembering another 40 or so on the way. The desire to go back for a trolley instead is always resisted, and the shopper continues until each arm in turn has been stretched almost to its limits, before finally reaching the checkout.

Buckenderra n
The point in the life of a person beyond which there is insufficient time to read all of the books they own, given a natural life expectancy. This point may be anywhere between 14 and 87 years, depending on the content of their library.

Bugaldie n
An unnatural interest in brass musical instruments.

Bungowannah n
The burning desire, when left alone in any room in which a tea cosy is available, to try it on.

Burdekin’s Gap n
The ratio between the amount of time spent avoiding a job, and the time that would be taken to actually do it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bennelacking - Booragoon

Bennelacking adj
Not the full quid; two cherries short of a trifle.

Bethungra n
The feeling you get when a romantic moment is spoiled by your partner farting and then either smirking about it or inhaling deeply and saying "oh, yesss!" cf Dickygundi.

Bimbimbie n
The kind of person whose idea of a good commercial venture is standing behind a trestle table in shopping malls, selling mobile phone accessories, cheap sunglasses, etc.

Birre Sand Blow n
A good portion of a surf beach brought back into the house by a teenager. It may be dry and evenly distributed, or wet and patchy. cf Antill Ponds.

Bobawaba adj
Of the motion of a tall jelly or trifle, being carried by a tipsy woman wearing high-heeled shoes.

Bolgart n
An advertising ploy that describes a product as something it cannot possibly be, eg "Insta-Roast – the best coffee there is," or "Gluggo instant rice cereal – just like mother makes." cf Popanyinning.

Boolarong adj
Of the contradictory situation when a teenager, who knows it all, makes the same fundamental error of judgement or discipline for the hundred and thirty-seventh time. This will, of course, be apparent to all present except the perpetrator.

Boomahnoomoonah interj
Colloquialism meaning, approximately, "that’s easy for you to say."

Boomanoomana interj
Familiar to taxi drivers around Kings Cross, after 3 am. It means "I’m not the slightest bit intoxicated, and would you please take me to the nearest zoo." Often confused with Boomahnoomoonah (qv), which is understandable.


Booragoon n
The uncomfortable feeling, experienced by someone in a crowd listening to a politician at election time, that the speaker has singled him out as being gullible enough to merit serious and undivided attention. cf Argalong.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ban Ban Springs - Belyando Crossing

Ban Ban Springs n
The internal condition of a mattress, once it has been used as a trampoline. Will inevitably lead to Alice Springs (qv).

Bangerang v
To endure cheap sausages.

Bannockburn n
The increasingly uncomfortable feeling in the stomach, an hour or two after Bangerang. For this reason, it is best to steer clear of any boy scouts earnestly trying to make a sale during a charity barbecue. Just give them your money, and give the sausage to the nearest dog; there is always one at every such event. cf Beggan Beggan.

Bannycubba v
To attempt to hide a wine spill, cigarette burn, etc, by rapidly placing any available object over it. The object will be so obviously out of place (eg, a vacuum cleaner beside you on the dining table) that the hostess will immediately wish to remove it, thereby exposing the offence.

Barep n
A very short, sharp, loud burp, which appears without warning – often to startling effect. Bareps are responsible for 23% of all damage to dentures.

Barnie Bolac n
Any immigrant neighbour (Lithuanian, Scottish, Tasmanian, etc) who talks nineteen to the dozen about how overjoyed he is with his new resident status. On average, one word in 17 will be intelligible, but since you failed to ask him to repeat the first few sentences, you will spend at least 11 minutes wearing a Naringaringalook (qv) every time he corners you, as he believes you are quite happily following his every word. cf Connewirrecoo, Tullochgorum.

Beelerup n
A particular variety of fart that escapes gradually, like a tortured bubble rising between the cheeks. It is always silent, and can lead to insanity if prolonged. Careful scrutiny of parliamentary broadcasts on TV will occasionally show a member suffering a Beelerup, as they adopt peculiar positions to aid the passage.

Beggan Beggan n
The type of dog known to inhabit charity barbecues. They are trained and supplied for the purpose, namely, to make punters feel sorry for them with all that delicious barbecue smell wafting through the air. You will then buy a sausage sandwich and give a bit to the dog, so salving your conscience on two counts – supporting charity, and keeping man’s best friend happy. cf Bannockburn.

Bellawongarah n
The process of filling in your details on a bill or mail order form, sealing the envelope, and then realising the cheque is still sitting on the desk beside you. By extension, it may be applied to the sending of any email, without its intended attachment.

Belyando Crossing n
A meeting place one finds oneself in, 1.3 minutes after leaving Ohanlon’s Siding (qv), with the very person you were avoiding. cf Venables Crossing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Baarmutha - Balnarring

Baarmutha n
(1) The dominant ewe, and hence, (2) the loudest woman in a public bar.

Bacchus Marsh n
The sodden mess of clothing, carpet, domestic pet, etc, created by someone so completely plastered that holding a full glass of beer is no longer possible. cf Chain of Lagoons.

Back Yamma n
  1. Any advice given by a mother-in-law, especially from the rear seat of a car. There is no known way of preventing or avoiding an impending Back Yamma.
  2. Any careless act, such as trying to lift an inebriated stranger into his driving seat, which causes lumbar pain that will last for five weeks and never quite fade away. The discomfort is surprisingly similar to that caused by (1) above.
Baffle Creek n
A variation to normal state government policy, concerning road signs that indicate direction and distance to nearby towns. The variation takes effect at selected T-junctions, where signs are deemed either (a) unnecessary, (b) a waste of taxpayers’ money, or (c) too helpful.

Bagshot adj
The condition of any favourite pair of shorts or trousers, now used only for fishing, which no dog will go near.

Bagshot North adj
The appearance of a face that has spent the night under a table, pressed against the carpet, among cigarette butts, etc, after a particularly rough party.

Balbarrup n
The steady rhythm of a deep and prolonged belch. The late Cozy Powell was inspired in the 1970s by the Balbarrups of members of his Australian road crew, subsequently basing many of his drum riffs on the unique sound.

Ballangeich n
The fear of facing a direct free kick in soccer, on an especially wet and cold day.

Balmattum n
The side effect of wearing a cricketer’s box for the length of time it takes an English batsman to score a century in first-class cricket.

Balnarring n
The immediate effects of a direct hit when not wearing a cricketer’s box, in the brief instant before the onset of pain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Arkarula - Aylmerton

Arkarula n
Any vehicle that is filled to overflowing with teenage couples, heading for the beach.

A feigned unavailability or indifference to an invitation, when you know full well that the person giving the invitation doesn’t really want you anywhere near the event in question, but feels obliged to ask all the same. Suitable responses would be "I’m washing my hair," "I need to de-coke the spark plugs," or "I’m working out the details of my funeral." In practice, the other person won’t give a monkey’s, as long as you stay well away.

The dreaded moment of realisation that the comedian has selected you, of all the people in the audience, to publicly embarrass. All of the others recognise this and can now relax and enjoy the show. Similar to Booragoon (qv).

Descriptive of any area of private land that has one or more rusting vehicles upon it. In some Shires, a Statute of Austinmersion obliges landholders to ensure that any vehicle that breaks down irretrievably shall lay undisturbed where it stopped, for at least 5 years, or until all doors, wheels and fittings are removed by passing scavengers.


Aylmerton n
A measure of the strength of beer. One Aylmerton is sufficient to begin a political debate; eight Aylmertons will precipitate serious argument on whether the government should be taken out the back and shot; and 27 Aylmertons will almost guarantee the loss of limbs in any public bar. One middy of average beer is rated at 53 Aylmertons.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Amoonguna - Areyonga

Amoonguna n
Someone given to prowling during the hours of darkness, laughing quietly at small dogs and shrubs.

Andamooka adj
The condition of woollen gloves, socks, etc, after handling or stepping in something damp and grimy.

Anduramba n
The determined anticipation felt by a person about to remove a sticking plaster from a particularly hairy part of their body. Also, their state of mind for the following five minutes, pretending that nothing is wrong and that they have just got a bit of dust in their eyes.

Anembo n
A small and mischievous sprite that distracts your attention, removes an object just after you put it down, and either puts it back where you picked it up from after you have gone looking for it, or moves it to another room that you have not been in for some time. Anembos thrive on the sound of “Have you seen my…?”

Angourie n
An ancient tribal ritual used to prepare a tee-shirt for its transition from garment to cleaning rag.

Antill Ponds n
Pools of water lying beside the shower mat, left there by a teenager. cf Birre Sand Blow.

Anyarro n
The expression on the face of the person you are speaking to, who obviously does not believe a word of what you are saying. Many politicians are familiar with this expression, from election-time canvassing.

Applethorpe n
A dental condition, caused by a small piece of apple peel becoming wedged in the teeth, or between tooth and gum. With certain varieties, this can prove fatal, or at least very expensive. If it occurs at a major social event, ostracision is almost inevitable, especially following attempts to remove it with any promising piece of cutlery. cf Widgiemooltha.

Argalong n
The need felt by a politician to answer a question in as long-winded manner as possible, in the belief that he will sound more convincing. It will quickly become apparent that the answer has no real connection with the question, but this will not deter the speaker. cf Booragoon.

Aratula n
The neighbour who borrows your drill, lawnmower, electric ferret-straightener, etc, and returns it 6 months later, complaining that it doesn’t work any more.

Arbuckle Junction n
In a high-speed car crash with no serious injuries, the mark left on any bare skin by a seat belt fixture.

Ardmory n
The subtle play to obtain the last sandwich, jam tart, etc, on the plate. cf Nullamanna.

Ardglen n
Any property in the bush that has been lovingly transformed by its owner into an exact replica of the highland croft that his ancestors migrated from. It will of course, lack certain minor features, such as midges, a 95% covering of rich green grass, and a perpetual state of either howling wind or misty rain.

Areegra n
A strange yellow-green mould found only in the inner recesses of Drizabone coats. Science will, one day, find a use for it, but not before it has rendered many coats either useless or just plain disgusting.

Areyonga n
Areyonga occurs when you mean to say one thing, but the words come out mangled. Neville Chamberlain fell victim to Areyonga after meeting Adolf Hitler, when he said “...peace in our time.” What he meant to say is lost to history, though it was most probably something like, “I’ve been taken for a ride, haven’t I?” Areyonga committed on first dates can be quite devastating for subsequent good relations between the parties.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Agnes Water - Aminungo

Agnes Water n
The unsavoury contents of a vase, when the flowers are a week past their best.

To insist that you knew something before being told it, despite being caught out in your ignorance.

Airey’s Inlet n
The safest and fastest route through tightly packed customers, to the bar. Discovered in 1897 by someone later passed over for a place in Scott’s Antarctic expedition; it is named after the man standing beside him who, ironically, was served first.

Airville n
The residence of any minor celebrity who has found immense fortune through being able to wear lurid make-up and mime to recordings.

Alawoona n
An exaggerated display of being overcome with astonishment, as carried out by toddlers, teenagers and the perpetually guilty.

Alice Springs n
In a mattress, those springs that, no matter how the mattress is turned, always poke through on the husband’s side. cf Ban Ban Springs.

Allen’s Rivulet n
The moment when beads of sweat down the back turn into a continuous flow, while cutting the grass in high summer.

Alligator Creek n
The unique sound of a badly-fitting false limb, acquired after a tropical swimming accident.

Alloway adj
Descriptive of a traveller’s misplaced confidence in being on the right road.

Almoola adj
Of a person obsessed with amassing great personal wealth, but with no clear intention to spend or share any of it whatsoever.

Aloomba n
The noise made by a 120-kilo person bouncing on a trampoline, in an echo chamber.

Allpurrurulam adj
Descriptive of a cat that is so loudly expressing its deep pleasure from a tickle under the chin, that you could hack off one of its legs without it noticing.

Alyangula n
The physical awkwardness of a teenager who is growing at an unfeasible rate.


Amby adj
Of a person who pretends to be uninterested in the topic of discussion, but who for their own peculiar reason, is hiding a torrent of emotion about it.

Aminungo n
A person who wavers between deciding to take a bungee jump or parachute death-leap for the first time, but always pulls back at the last moment, rigid with fear.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Aaron’s Pass - Agery

Aaron’s Pass n
In football (any code), delivery of the ball so that it is just out of reach of any team-mate, and rolls safely into touch.

Abbeyard adj
A medieval rating for the comfort level of monastic beds - particularly those made of stone. cf Abbeywood.

Abbeywood adj
A moderate comfort rating for a monk’s bed, softer than Abbeyard (qv).

Abercorn n
The first – and most painful – damage to the feet when breaking in a new pair of hiking boots.

Aberfeldy n
The ungainly stumble performed by a novice attempting any form of Scottish country dancing for the first time, when he goes the opposite direction to everyone else and tries to correct the mistake. cf Acland.

Abergowrie n
A particularly fierce scowl, which only those with at least 5 generations of Scots ancestry can perform. May be silent or accompanied by a low growl or, occasionally, a mystic Gaelic curse.

Abraham’s Bosom n
The appearance of the chest of a man carrying live geese in his shirt.

Acheron n
A testicle that suffers repeated accidental abuse.

Acheron River n
Tears brought to the eyes as a result of a severe Acheron (qv) incident.

Acland n
A successful recovery from what would otherwise have become an Aberfeldy (qv), performing instead an entertaining and inventive variation on the conventional sequence of movements.

Adventure Bay n
Cupid’s playground. The nether wonderland. Happy hollow. The groin.

Adaminaby n
A person who leads another into temptation, fully intending to dump them in the fertiliser afterwards. cf Old Adaminaby.

Addington n
A person who, after doing a sum with an electronic calculator, has to repeat it because he fears having miskeyed one or more digits. A second repetition will be necessary, in case the suspected mistake was repeated. However, all three answers will be identically correct.

Adelong n
A persistent and copious drip at the back of the throat, from the nose, during a heavy cold. If tapped, a typical Adelong could supply a small outback town with adequate moisture to keep several lawns watered for a week.

Agery adj
Over-sensitive to having your advancing years mentioned in public.

Why am I doing this?

Good question. I like words; I like the ability to express sensitive nuance one minute and blunt invective the next. If I have any regrets in life, one might be that I didn't learn Latin at school, to benefit from a deeper understanding of our language. It is therefore purely happenstance that on occasion the wheels in my mind should turn slowly in a particular sequence, leading to 'discoveries' when I really look at a word and infer its roots. Life is full of these minor, but nonetheless pleasant, epiphanies.

This work has little to do with the preceding statements, save the looking at a place name, and finding a resonance, a suggestion of possible meaning. Much of what follows has been spawned by a skewed imagination reared on "Do not adjust your set," Monty Python, Spike Milligan and the Goons, Pete & Dud, Fry & Laurie and many other seminal manifestations of all that was and is great about British comedy over the past half-century - not forgetting dear departed Douglas Adams.

I have long been fascinated by names - of places and people - and how they came about. Smith, Butcher, Fletcher and co. are easy to understand, but Hancock, Sidebottom (or Sidebotham, if you will), Nether Wallop and so on, seem to exist as a challenge to keeping a straight face. Where, how, did they originate? Piddletrenthide is quite delightful; we know that this village derives its name from the River Piddle, but who thought of calling the river by that name? ... or did the vernacular meaning of the word come from the river?

By way of further explanation of the content to follow (or perhaps just to illustrate the kind of off-centre thought-processes that have led to it), I would recall the occasions in school, when we played word-association games. It often seemed to happen that my mind would make a double leap (or perhaps a hop, skip and jump), so that in the potential sequence field - farm - lamb - mint sauce, my mind would take lamb as read and move rapidly on to mint sauce, leaving the others somewhat bemused. I just couldn't help it.

I hope, dear reader, that you will enjoy this work. Should you fail to understand parts of it (or indeed, any of it), then don't worry - it's not you, it's me.

Note: I am keen to draw the reader's attention to the fact that no disrespect at all is intended towards any place whose name is featured in this work. All the disrespect is aimed squarely at the annoying prats, frustrating situations, etc, to which those names have been (temporarily) assigned.