Where in the World is Woolloomooloo?
Any avid collector of funny sounding place names must make a trip down to Australia. The aboriginal place names of villages, rivers and monuments will twist the tongue in a myriad of amusing directions. The history and meaning of these aboriginal names is almost as entertaining as the places themselves.
Generally places are named descriptively by what was in the area. Mooloolaba may sound like a farm animal impression by an adorable three-year-old but it is in fact a beachside township in Queensland. The name originated from the aboriginal word for snapper fish, mulu, and the area is unsurprisingly a fishing region.
Names can be misleading, like the upstanding city of Indooroopilly. The city has a beautiful shopping center and a teaching facility for engineering students from the University of Queensland. It is hard to believe that this modern commercial area’s name means “gully of leeches”.
At least one world famous actor of historical epics has chosen Woolloomooloo for a home. This suburb of Sydney is an ideal place to own a penthouse and it contains the largest wooden structure in the world, Finger Wharf. There is no irony in the fact that Woolloomooloo means “place of plenty”.
Locals are proud of their natively titled places and monuments. The rugby league of Parramatta adopted the eel as their symbol because the meaning of the town name is “place where the eels lie down”. Some famous places even go to great lengths to return to the original name, such as Ayer’s Rock now choosing to advertise as Uluru.
Spellings and translations in some places have been lost due to a long game of telephone between native tongue and foreign ear. No one is sure why an aboriginal mission town like Cocklebiddy got its name but that does not stop spelunkers from visiting the extensive cave system.
If a place is still populated by aboriginal people then there may not always be a translation of its aboriginal place name. Indigenous folk of the proud town of Yirrkala have their bark paintings displayed in museums all over the world. It also should be noted that this town without a translation sells some of the finest hand made didgeridoos in the country.
There are so many uniquely named places to enjoy. One could swim the Mitta Mitta or spend the day sunbathing on Bondi Beach. The intrigue of aboriginal areas, both modernized and conserved, are all worth discovering.