11 October 2010

SYDNEY Words: ringing

Sometime in 1791, William Dawes recorded the verb ‘to tear’, as in 'tearing a piece of paper':
"Tilbánga" dilbanga = "To tear (as paper)" tear: Dawes (b) [b:19:15] [BB]
This was to prove one of many instances of misunderstanding between an indigenous informant and the immigrant interlocutor. For the word did not mean ‘tear’ but rather the sound that tearing a piece of paper makes.
Dawes himself provided an essential clue to the true meaning in a further entry:
"Tilbanye-buni" dilbanyabuni = "The bell did not ring, or has not rung" ring-lacking: Dawes (b) [b:20:13] [BB]
Here, ‘-buni’ is the privitave sufffix (or ‘ending’) meaning ‘lacking’: so ‘ring-lacking’.
David Collins, in his 1789 work, mentions a bird often ‘heard’, now known as the bellbird:
"dilboong" dilbung = "In about a month or six weeks the child receives its name. This is generally taken from some of the objects constantly before their eyes, such as a bird, a beast, or a fish, and is given without any ceremony. Thus Bennillong’s child Dilboong was so named after a small bird, which we often heard in low wet grounds and in copses." bellbird: Collins 1 [:465:33] [BB]
Collins, in his later 1802 work, affirmed that the word was to do with sound (rather than ‘tearing’):
"dil boong" dilbung = "The melancholy cry of the bell-bird (dil boong, after which Bennillong named his infant child) seems to be unknown here." bellbird: Collins 2 [2:120:] [BB]
This word’s meaning as ‘bellbird’ was confirmed in the ‘Anon’ notebook, again making specific reference to sound:
"Dil-bung" dilbung = "A bird with a shrill note" ringing—bellbird: Anon (c) [c:24:11] [BB]
The bellbird is indeed most noted for its sound, like a ‘bell’.
Another notorious maker of sound in nature is the cricket, or grasshopper. The indigenous people certainly noticed this:
"Dil-be-nong" dilbanang = ""Native name Dil-be-nong" ...." grasshopper: Painters [::] [BB] <12412>
"Dilban-ang" dilbanang = "Native name Dilban-ang.... " grasshopper: Painters [::] [BB] <12413>
R.H. Mathews made a Dharug record in 1901:
"jirrabirrin" dyirabirin = "Small locust" grasshopper: Mathews DG 1901 [:159:35] [DG]"
There are similar ‘grasshopper' records in other nearby languages, first to the northwards of Sydney:
"jilpir" dyilbir = "Grasshopper" grasshopper: Mathews DARK 1903 [:281.1:22] [Dark]
"Dilwirrar" dilwira = "grasshopper" grasshopper: Curr, E.M.: 3 [:345.2:29] [BPI]
Second, southwards:
"dyilwir" dyilwir = "Grasshopper" grasshopper: Mathews KML/Dwl [:278.6:2] [Dwl]
"dyirribrit " dyiribarid = "Locust, small" grasshopper: Mathews NGWL [:304:42] [Gga/Ngwl]
And also across the Blue Mountains, picking up the theme of ‘sound’:
"dyilburi" dyilburi = "Plain lark" lark: Mathews WIRA 1904 [:300:131] [WIRA]
"Dinbuorin" dinbuwarin = "a native lark" lark: Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:80:47] [WIRA]
"Dinbana" dinbana = "to buzz (like flies)" buzz: Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:80:46] [WIRA]