English in Its Social Contexts: Essays in Historical Sociolinguistics

By Tim William MacHan; Charles T. Scott | Go to book overview
Save to active project
gin ("woman"), and waddy ("club"), some of which have even been endowed with false European etymologies. In quoting a pitiful statement by an Aboriginal youth about to hang, Ramson ( 1964b:57) pinpoints how pidgin, from the mix of a native dialect and low-class English, including thieves' slang and swearing, can distort both meaning and the source of words form both cultures. As a result of such confused idiom, many Aboriginal terms, familiar to most Australians, are now suspect in origin; for example, bingy ("stomach"), bogey ("swim"), cooee ("call"), jumbuck ("sheep"), yacker ("work"), and yarraman ("horse") could well be Aboriginal attempts at English. Debbil, peller, and plurry are obvious pidgin for "devil," "fellow," and "bloody," and one might be similarly convinced by boma ("gun"), borak ("derisive talk" or perhaps "barrack"), pialler ("talk," perhaps from parley), yabber ("talk," perhaps from jabber). More research is needed, because one is tempted to conjecture further. What might one read into the "Aboriginal" badgee ("angry"), bombora ("breaking waves on rocks"), dhabba ("painting stick"), jinki ("legendary spirit"), yan ("go"), yowi ("yes"), yukki ("exclamation"), wakaburra ("club")?
Some expressions combine Aboriginal and English words, useful for immediate communication but not always good for the better adjustment of the two cultures: baal gammon ("no deceit"), bora ground ("ceremonial area"), bunyip aristocracy (derogatory name for a failed attempt to create a colonial aristocracy), finger yabber ("sign language"), and piccaninny daylight ("period before sunrise"). Typically used by English speakers, such words reflect a practice that occurs wherever a host and a new language are coming to terms. An extension of this has been the development of apposite English compounds, some likely to be Australian English creations, such as blackfellow's buttons ("australites"), blackfellow's oven ("midden"), black-tracker, digging stick, fire stick, and puller ("didgeridoo player"). These are not nearly as colourful as the Aboriginal big sick ("leprosy"), close-up ("nearly"), dream time ("distant past"),finger money ("money for spending"), flour bag ("white haired," "old"), make a light ("see," "look for"), sit down ("stay," "live"), sorry cuts ("body cuts to show grief"), tumble down ("die," "kill"), walkabout ("wandering"), and white money ("silver coin"). My father described use of very poor English as blackfellow talk, indirectly and rather crudely identifying the presence of a social problem.

The preceding examples were chosen as terms that have been familiar to whites for many decades, and they express something of the closeness of the two peoples in bush settlements. The breakdown of this closeness can be detected when more personal contacts are examined, after the very early days, when no offence seems to have been taken. Aborigines were originally called Indians, then natives; the latter also described "native" whites, but a further sorting into black natives, native blacks, and white natives was not popular. Aborigines' words to describe themselves, like boori, koori,or murri, were not very enduring because the whites seem to have preferred nonspecific names, often smacking of pidgin and the pejorativeness associated with it. There were unpopular Americanisms like coon, darky, nigger, black, blackboy, blackfellow, and the local shortening, Abo. Boong was a popular, usually friendly name for New Guineans during World War II, but this friendliness is absent in its later use for Aborigine.

-224-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
English in Its Social Contexts: Essays in Historical Sociolinguistics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 274

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?