A recent post recently stated that the Australian language or lingo has evolved from a mixing pot of cultures over the past 230 years. It began on the ships of the First Fleet with a mix of convicts, soldiers, settlers and sailors who spoke a variety of differing dialects and versions of British working-class slang. More recently the Chinese, Pacific Islanders and Americans who come to our shores have contributed to the new and colourful expressions in our language.
We mustn’t forget, however, that many of our words derive from Indigenous languages, particularly the names of animals and places.
Aboriginal Australians, more commonly referred to as First Nation people, comprise many distinct peoples who developed across Australia for over 50,000 years. These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history, but only in the last 230 years have they been defined as a single group.
The word kangaroo derives from the Guugu Yimithirr word gangurru, referring to eastern grey kangaroos. The name was first recorded as “kanguru” on 12 July 1770 in an entry in the diary of botanist, Sir Joseph Banks during a sea journey in the HMS Endeavour under the command of Lieutenant James Cook. Guugu Yimithirr is the language of the First Nations people of Cooktown where the “roos” were spotted during a time when Cook’s ship was undertaking several weeks of repairs.
The kangaroo is a recognisable symbol of Australia. Most notably, both the kangaroo and emu feature on the Australian Coat of Arms. Why? Because neither the kangaroo nor emu can walk backwards.
Demystifying Australian Language