Scottish Daily Mail

The wonderful words of Oz


QUESTION How many languages were spoken in Australia at the time of European settlement? WhEN British colonists arrived in Australia, they believed there was a single Aboriginal language spoken across the continent.

The word kangaroo was first recorded as ‘kangaru’ in the diary of sir Joseph Banks, a member of Captain James Cook’s party on July 12, 1770, as hMs Endeavour was beached for repairs on the banks of the River Endeavour, site of modern Cooktown.

The l ocal Aborigines spoke Guugu Yimidhirr, using the word gangurru to describe a particular species, the grey kangaroo.

having learned this word, later colonists couldn’t understand why Aboriginal people from the sydney area didn’t understand it, instead believing kangaroo to be an English word.

According to the National Indigenous Languages survey Report 2005, at the time the Australian continent was colonised, there were about 250 distinct indigenous languages. Most Australian indigenous languages have several dialects and there are estimated to be 800 or more of these.

Today, there are only about 50 or so i ndigenous languages spoken in Australia. The strong Australian languages left are in the most remote and least urbanised areas of the continent.

Pitjantjat­jara, the strongest dialect in the Western Desert dialect chain, is still spoken today in many parts of the Central region such as the Mutitjulu community at Uluru, while Arrernte, the language of the Alice springs area, is still heard every day around the town.

Tom Davies, Sydney. QUESTION Outside a church in Wilmslow, I saw the clever slogan: ‘Carpenter requires joiners.’ What other slogans have been used to attract people into church? FURThER to earlier answers, my favourite was a banner in south London in the early Eighties when the Church was leading the resistance to the communist government in Poland. The banner read: ‘If YOU were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’

C. Mozley, Budapest, Hungary. A sLOGAN has just appeared outside my l ocal c hurch: ‘Jesus serves, now the ball is in your court!’

Sue Marsden, Poole, Dorset. I REMEMBER one which said: ‘ When did you l ast come to church? Was it your Christenin­g? Was it your wedding? Don’t wait until your funeral before you come again.’ Phil Hollowell, Wallington, London.

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