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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Haast’s Bluff - Hampden

Haast’s Bluff n
(1) An obsolete term, describing the action of someone who was one of the first to own a mobile phone, talking in a loud and animated fashion, in a conspicuous location, with no-one on the other end. cf Rabbit Island.
(2) The pretence that you have understood the travel directions just given to you while on holiday in a foreign country. 50 percent of the time it won’t matter anyway, as the other person will have misunderstood your question, and will just have explained the best method of catching the local seafood delicacy.

Hadspen n
A ball-point or similar pen that seems still to have ink in it, but refuses to write. Banks and Post Offices are required by law to provide at least one Hadspen for public use.

Hagley n
A disreputable stall-holder in a busy weekend market, who tries to avoid giving change under the pretence that he has lost track of who he was serving.

Haines Saddle n
The process of silently justifying your not giving up a seat to a needier person. In the process you only increase your feelings of guilt, to the point that it becomes a matter of principle that you remain precisely where you are.

Half Moon Flat n
A puncture suffered after dusk, when it is still light enough to see the wheel and operate the jack, but too dark to find the wheel nuts that you just kicked into the grass verge.

Halifax n
The bloody-minded determination of a person not to answer the phone in their lunch-hour, because that’s the only real power they enjoy.

Hallora n
A hearty back-slapping greeting in the pub, given by someone who enjoys making a great show of how many wonderful friends they have. Osteopaths and chiropractors are always grateful for the business generated by repeated Halloras.

Hampden n
The grubby mess that accumulates around and under sofas, TVs etc, from the relaxed eating habits of toddlers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Glossodia - Gypsy Point

Glossodia n
A technical term for a technique used by lawyers, plumbers, devious spouses, etc. A combination of ‘to gloss over’, and ‘odious’, this is a nasty practice - the verbal equivalent of hiding important details in the small print. Salient facts will not be lied about, but will not be raised unless the customer brings them up. By such means, invoices may sometimes be inflated as much as threefold.

Gnotuk n
A shirt tail that steadfastly refuses to stay inside the trousers. Some scientists can maintain a Gnotuk for many years, without ill effect.

Gnowangerup v
To secure a nut and bolt using any tool other than a spanner of the correct size, damaging the nut in the process, and rendering it irremovable. This archaic procedure is now taught only to plumbers.

Gobondery v
To be driven nearly insane by the mere thought of your having a substantial sum held as a bond, while you live in rented accommodation. A cure for this near insanity would be the assurance of even a modest rate of interest on the sum held, but pigs will almost certainly learn to fly first.

Goondiwindi adj
Descriptive of the sort of sporadic nuisance breeze that blows gently and infrequently enough to be almost unnoticeable, but which scatters the papers you are just about to pick up.

Grafton n
Any part of a project completed by an amateur handyman, which is obviously a "make-do" component. This always arises after the hardware shops have closed for the weekend, but when there is a desperate desire to see the job finished before Monday.

Greenmantle n
The need to own alternative colour schemes for a mobile phone. cf Bimbimbie.

Gritjurk v, n
1. v To search out and eat all of the broken biscuits in the tin first, just to ‘tidy up a bit’, before you actually eat the single biscuit that you intended to have at the start.
2. n The erratic walking motion of a person who is trying to dislodge a tiny piece of gravel in their shoe to a less irritating spot, without actually stopping to remove the shoe and empty it.

Gulargambone n
A deceptive piece of roasted animal that appears to be a succulent and appetizing morsel, but which turns out to be a knee joint liberally coated in well-fired juices, fat, skin, etc., with not a scrap of meat at all.

Gypsy Point n
The instant at which Horrane (qv) becomes no longer fear, but horribly apparent fact.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garah Common - Gerang Gerung

Garah Common n
An area authorised for the keeping of sacrificial goats.

Gapsted n, v
1. n The location, as yet undiscovered but suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Saturn, where the contents of millions of wage packets mysteriously disappear to, on Friday night.
2. v (Past tense) When you have been beaten to a parking space while fumbling for reverse, you have been Gapsted.

Garangula n
The desire to immediately respond to a Feluga (qv) with a long list of things that quite evidently are worse.

Geengee n
The sort of frantic laughter that degenerates into rapid, silent gasping. In 1927, an entire Welsh village perished through asphyxiation as a result of a prolonged bout of Geengee. The precise reason was never discovered, but is thought to have been either sheep, or lost English tourists.

Gelantipy n
The unsettling conviction held by a small child that their drawing represents a particular animal, and that they will still instantly recognise it three months later.

Gelorup n
The sound of baked beans leaving the tin in one moist, solid mass.


Gerang Gerung v
To make a complete mess of grammar.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Feluga - Fumar

Feluga n
The blatant lie present in the statement "There’s nothing worse..." It will be easy to show that piles, cancer and nuclear weapons are worse.

Fisherman’s Paradise n
The pub. The fishing is good, but at the end of the day, the pub’s where it’s at.

Fitzgerald n
Any collection of National Geographic magazine spanning at least 10 years with no gaps.

Five Ways n
Any road junction of at least 3 choices, without a signpost for any. [Also Four Ways.]

Footscray n (med)
A persistent infection below the toes, caused by constantly wearing the same smelly pair of cheap training shoes. cf Patchewollock.

Framlingham n
Nearly transparent parts of cold sliced meat, which resemble, but are not adequate replacement for, edible meat. Avoid them, for they are disappointingly like rubber bands, and have similar nutritional value.

Freeling v
Parking a car very carefully so as to take up a space that would actually have fitted two similar vehicles. cf Stony Pinch.

Fumar n
A solitary smoker who sits with teeth grimly clenched around their pipe, cigarette or cigar, in a place where smoking is not actually banned, but where not another soul approves of the practice. More than one Fumar has eventually been buried with their choice of smoke still clenched between locked jaws, having resolutely refused to give up their last remaining pleasure for anyone.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Failford - Father Woods Broom

Failford v
To attempt unsuccessfully to cross a creek, river, etc, in the faint hope that the water won’t be too deep for your car.

Fairbank n
An oxymoron; a contradiction in terms. There was once a fair bank, back in the dim and distant past, but word spread about its fair dealings, and people came from far and wide, just to look at this marvellous institution. As a result, no work was ever done, as genuine customers couldn’t find their way through the crowds, and the bank had to close its doors forever. The lesson was learned in financial circles, that it was better to have disgruntled customers than no customers at all.

Fairhope n
Any casual punter placing a bet on a horse race etc, without having previously studied the racing form. This will not, however, significantly affect his chances of success.

False Island n
1. The premise upon which a miscreant child justifies its heinous action.
2. The branch upon which a novice tree-lopper sits, while attacking same with a saw.

Farleigh adj
Of the expression worn by someone being talked at by their spouse, about Aunty Doris’s latest health crisis.

Fassifern n
Fassifern is the unadventurous-looking greenery that is unfortunately and unceremoniously pulled out of the ground by someone ignorant of gardening, in the belief that it is an overenthusiastic weed. Sadly, it will have been planted some months before by someone else, and will likely have cost a small fortune at the local boutique garden centre. It will also have been due to flower within the following week.

Father Woods Broom n
A generic term for any tool that has been in the family for decades. No-one will remember where it came from, but Grandad will have used it as a boy, and the patina on its handle will be lovingly admired by anyone older than 50.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eribung - Euston

Eribung n
A brief but debilitating bout of constipation.

Errinundra conj
Used to indicate the current whereabouts of a missing item. For example, "Have you seen my shoes?" "Yes, Errinundra bed." [orig. Scottish dialect]

Errowanbang n
An unexplained noise that wakes you during the night. You will lie awake for at least 25 minutes, hardly breathing, while waiting for it to happen again. It will not.

Ettamogah n
Any mention of ‘personal’ matters, especially those of a biological or marital nature, which causes an uneasy shuffling on the part of either speaker or listener.

Eubabong n
A bum note played by the bellringers, during an important service. Played by the organist, nobody would notice the error, but the Eubabong stands out like a well-hammered carpenter’s thumb.

Eunonyhareenyha n
An extended period in the company of close and intimate friends, where ritual consumption of alcohol is undertaken, in order to reach a completely relaxed state. cf Nirranda.

Euroka Clearing n
The regular morning ritual performed by any 50-a-day smoker.

Euston n
The feeling of regret at having been caught after experiencing Currawong (qv) and following it through.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Earlando - Epsom

Earlando n
Any normal word or phrase that is normally used quite innocently, but which unfortunately takes on a very suggestive connotation when least expected, eg ‘moist’, ‘give you one’, ‘goat’.

Echuca n (med)
The irritating feeling of badly fitting false teeth.

Echunga n (med)
A combined cough and sneeze, caused by Echuca.

Edenhope n
The belief that any statement made by a politician in any way refers to, or is to be construed as of possible benefit to, his constituents.

Eidsvold n
The proportion, relating to the total number of books in any given shop, obtained by dividing the number of pages that will be read in their entirety by the number of pages that will not even be opened. Under ancient Norse law, this number must be no higher than 0.13. Any bookshop found breaching this law will have to stock as many copies of books on origami, ethnic vegetarian cookery in the open air and basket-weaving as will correct the breach twofold.

Eleebana adj
The state of a person’s bank balance at which point they feel it necessary to invest in a personalised number plate.

Elingamite n
When there is light at the end of the tunnel, the hope that there is enough money in the electricity meter to keep the light burning until you get there.

Ensay v
To have a full understanding and acceptance of, the annual budget speech.

Epping v
The action of making a Wongawilli (qv), correct in all anatomical detail.

Epsom v
To find shoe-shops amusing or satisfying.