17 August 2010

NYUNGAR Words: dyida or 'Jetta'

In 2010 a young indigenous AFL footballer from Western Australia began playing for the Sydney Swans. His name is Louis Jetta. Could his uncommon surname be a Nyungar word, and if so, what might it mean? A search of the database, after respelling it as 'dyida', revealed that 'jetta' is a Nyungar term, with several meanings.

The first of these is 'bird', or species of 'bird':


"dyeeda" dyida = "bird (generic term)" bird: [3] Lyon 1833 [:216:4] [NYUNGAR]

"ji-da" dyida = "bird" bird: [5] Symmons 1841 [:216:1] [Wajuk]

"jee-da" dyida = "thornbill, yellow rumped" thornbill: [18 (w)] Serventy [: 411:39] [Wajuk]

"Jida" dyida = "Wren, yellow-tailed; Acanthiza Chrysorrhoea" wren: Moore 1842 [:170:17] [NYUNGAR]

'dyida' combined with 'maya', the word for 'hut' or 'house', yields the expression for 'bird's nest' as found in the records:

"jee-da-mya" dyida maya = "bird's nest, a" bird nest: [4] Grey 1840 [:216:23] [NYUNGAR]

"ji-da-my-a" dyida maya = "birds nest" bird nest: [5] Symmons 1841 [:216:21] [Wajuk]

"Jid-amy-a" dyida maya = "Bird's nest." bird nest: Moore 1842 [:49:14] [NYUNGAR]

A second meaning for 'jetta', and one seemingly unrelated to the first, is '(edible) root':


"jee-ta" dyida = "root of a sp. of rush - similar to Indian corn" root: [4] Grey 1840 [:363:18] [NYUNGAR]

"jitta" dyida = "root, edible" root: [5] Symmons 1841 [:363:37] [Wajuk]

"Jetta" dyida = "The root of a species of rush, eaten by the natives...." root: Moore 1842 [:49:11] [NYUNGAR]

"Jitta" dyida = "6. Haemadorum-a species of rush" root: Moore 1842 [:154:27] [NYUNGAR]

Two more meanings, possibly related to each other but not to the foregoing, are the following. They are to do with 'light', specifically the 'light of day' for the first, and 'white', or 'light-coloured', for the second:


"je-dar" dyida = "morning; dawn" dawn: [4] Grey 1840 [:325:48] [NYUNGAR]

"je-dar" dyida = "morning; dawn" dawn: [4] Grey 1840 [:325:48] [NYUNGAR]

"jee-da" dyida = "daylight" daylight: [4] Grey 1840 [:251:47] [NYUNGAR]

"Djidar" dyida = "Dawn of morning; daylight." dawn: Moore 1842 [:29:10] [NYUNGAR]

"djidar" dyida = "dawn" dawn: [9] Moore 1884 [:251:2] [NYUNGAR]

"Djidar" dyida = "Dawn of morning; daylight." dawn: Moore 1842 [:29:10] []


"Djitto" dyida = "Fair; light-coloured." white: Moore 1842 [:31:4] [NYUNGAR]

"djit-to" dyida = "see djit-ting" white: [4] Grey 1840 [:370:22] [NYUNGAR]

"djee-dal" dyidal = "white or gray" white: [4] Grey 1840 [: 440:3] [NYUNGAR]

"djidal" dyidal = "white" white: [9] Moore 1884 [: 438:38] [NYUNGAR]

"jidaluk" dyidalag = "dark" dark: [10 (n)] Curr [:250:14] [Kaniyang]

The last example above, from Curr, combines 'dyida' with two suffixes, '-al' (possibly 'dative' or 'ablative'), and '-ag' (possessive). Perhaps these suffixes alter the meaning to the opposite of 'light', or perhaps the word can have both meanings, 'light' and 'dark', just as one word might be used for 'tomorrow' and 'yesterday'.

This 'white' usage for 'dyida' is featured in the expression for an elderly person:

"katta-dyeedal" gada dyidal = "grey-haired" head white: [3] Lyon 1833 [:276:48] [NYUNGAR]

"katta djee-dal" gada dyidal = "grey-headed" head white: [4] Grey 1840 [:276:49] [NYUNGAR]

"cattagigi" gada dyidyi = "hair" head white: [8 (E)] Salvado [:279:37] [Balardung]

Salvado, in the final example, identified the expression as meaning 'hair', but from the preceding collection there seems little doubt that his 'cattagigi', rendered using Italian conventions, in reality meant 'head white', 'gada' being the Nyungar word for 'head'.

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