31 December 2010

NSW Words

Tracing the Bokhara and other NSW rivers
In a press report in the Sydney Morning Herald for the last day of 2010, there was the following entry:
“Moderate to major flooding is expected along the Culgoa, Bokhara, Birrie and Narran rivers over the coming weeks.’
And a little further on in the article:
“... floodwater from west-flowing NSW rivers is still causing minor to moderate flowing along the Barwon River.”
Perhaps this was a clue to a puzzle of ‘bagara’ in the Minyung language, on the far north NSW coastal region, found in the following two examples:
[1] "bukkora goa" bagara-ga-wa = "’go past’" past  -go: Livingstone [:19:31.1] [Mnyg]
[2] "kunde bukkora" gandi bagara = "’over there.’" there xxx  : Livingstone [:26:8] [Mnyg]
There was also the further question as to the meaning in this language of ‘goa’ (gawa).
In the second example, ‘kunde’ probably did mean ‘there’, it having been spelt out in:
[3] "kundy" gandi = "it there; it. (n.)" there  : Livingstone [:7:36.1] [Mnyg]
Investigation of ‘bagara’ through searches conducted in the NORTH Bayala Database bayaladatabases.blogspot.com proceeded along the following lines:
Could ‘baga’ mean ‘river’? Or some aspect of water?:
[4] " bokatoġ" baga-dang = "the surf of the sea; a wave" foam  : Tkld AWA Lex [:203:31] [Awa]
GAWA (’goa’)
[5] "goagwoin" gawagwan = "water" water  : G. Bass (Cowagary) [:111.5:29] [NrN]
[6] "Ko-guin" gugwin = "Water" water  : Tkld KRE c.1835 [:131:37.1] [Kre]
BAGA red herrings
[7] "bukka" baga = "anger; ferociousness" anger  : Tkld AWA Lex [:204:19] [Awa]
[8] "Buk´-a Buk-â" baga baga = "savage" anger  very: Enright GDG 1900 [:110:9] [Gdg]
[9] "bukka-kei" baga-ga-yi = "ferocious, savage" angry person/actor : Tkld AWA (Fraser) 1892 [:14:6.2] [Awa]
[10] "Bukker" baga = "knee" knee  : SofM 1898 05 21 [p.88: Brown] [:88.24:52] [Bpi]
[11] "Buk-â" baga = "the knee" knee  : Enright GDG 1900 [:109:11] [Gdg]
[12] "Bukkar" baga = "Knee" knee  : Tkld GDG Aust Voc  [:125.1:36] [Gdg?]
[Explanation of some of the source abbreviations for languages:
AWA (Awabakal); KRE (Karree, near the Hawkesbury R; GDG (Gadang, central coast); BPI (Biripi)]
BUT, perhaps ‘knee’ might not be a red herring, if ‘bagara ga-wa‘  were a stream. It might be a STREAM (ga-wa?) with a knee-bend (bagara) in it.
Likewise, ‘baga-dang’ cited above might be a ‘knee-bend’ effect in the SEA: i.e. ‘a wave’.
And the ‘go past’ gloss in the first example [1] might be a reference to the water FLOWING past.
And in the second example [2], the gloss ‘over there’ might have reflected an informant’s pointing to the river ‘over there’ (this tenuous conjecture could apply to practically any unknown example).
The INLAND database
Although Minyung was a coastal language, the rivers ran inland, so it seemed appropriate to see what the INLAND database might suggest. Thus:
[13] "bogarru" bagaru = "Grass, collectively" grass  : Mathews WIRA 1904 [:300:85] [WIRA]
‘Grass’ is a possibility for ‘bagara’, given that there might have been grass near the river Bokhara.
The INLAND database suggested many other directions in which the trail might be pursued but nothing definitive. So at this point investigation into the meaning of the Bokhara River petered out.
But what about the Culgoa River? ‘Culgoa’ features the same ‘goa’ element found in the first example [1] given. Two main cataloguers of Australian placenames provide the following:
[14] "Culgoa" gulgawa = "Running through or returning" returning  : McCarthy [:10:2] [Kamilaroi]
[15] "Culgoa" gulgawa = "River running through" returning  : Tyrrell [:17:14] [Kamilaroi]
The second of these examples [15] specifically mentions a ‘river’. Could ‘Culgoa’ be a gul (or gal) river? The COASTAL database offered no clues, with nothing akin to ‘running through or returning’ for gul/gal. But the INLAND database—and these are inland rivers—offered a useful possibility:
[16] "kulli" gali = "Rain " rain  : Mathews KML/Dwl [:276.4:1] [Kamilaroi]
[17] "kolli" gali = "Water" water  : AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:236:24] [Kamilaroi]
A further thought is that the suffix ‘-wa’ (forming part of ‘goa’ (ga-wa) suffix) often denotes MOVEMENT, as noted by Threlkeld:
[18] "wa" wa = "Actuality of motion, has changed place, moved, &c." move  : Tkld AWA Key 1850 [Key:28:13] [Awa]
So Culgoa (galgawa) might be about ‘water-moving’.
Finally, consider the other rivers mentioned: Birrie, Narran and Barwon.
The Birrie River is in the Brewarrina local government area. And Brewarrina itself means ‘tree standing’:
[19] "burree" bari = "tree" tree  : AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:239:13.1] [Kamilaroi]
[20] "boree" bari = "hard heavy timber tree" tree  hard: Mitchell, J.F.H 9CY reel 681 [:85:] [Wiradhuri]
[21] "Warranna" warana = "to stand" stand  : Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:105:8] [WIRA]
[22]  "warrana" warana = "Stand" stand  : Mathews NYMBA 1904 [:230.3:53] [NYMBA]

and this ‘tree’ meaning is confirmed by records for the spelling ‘biri’:
[23] "Birri" biri = "the box-tree" box  : Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:74:70] [WIRA]
[24] "birri" biri = "box (tree)" box  : KAOL Ridley [KML] [:23:10.2] [Kamilaroi]
There are often trees along river banks, so the recorded name might have arisen from an informant’s pointing to the riverside trees.
There are several possibilities for the ‘narran’ name. McCarthy gives:
[25] "Narran" naran = "Hungry place" hungry  : McCarthy [:14:51] [Ngwl / Wira]
Others meaning possibilities are:
[26] "nhurrin" narin = "Flank" flank  : Mathews KML/Dwl [:276.1:31] [Kamilaroi]
[27] "nhurran" naran = "Jew- lizard " lizard  jew: Mathews WIRA 1904 [:301:31] [WIRA]
[28] "[Narang, Narra]" narang = "slowly" slow  : SofM 1897 02 27 [HP WIRA] [:16.5:36.1] [WIRA]
[29] "ŋurruŋ" narang = "night" night  : KAOL Ridley [WIRA] [:126:4.2] [WIRA]
[30] "Nurroong" narung = "Dark" night  : SofM 1900 05 21 [Tibbetts] [:63:66] [WIRA]
Of these, ‘flank’ might refer to the ‘bank’ of the river; ‘lizard’, and ‘slow’ might be the same concept if the lizard were moving ‘slowly’; and ‘night’ and ‘dark’ are the same idea’, and such words can be used for ‘black’.
These examples confuse rather than clarify what the name of the Narran River might have meant in reality.
An apparently convincing meaning for ‘Barwon’ is given by the following:
[31] "Barwon" bawan = "Barwon (river), great, wide, awful." big  : AL&T Greenway (Ridley) [KML] [:239:11] [KML]
As is often the case, further enquiry muddies the picture:
[32] "Báwan!" bawan = "no, no! by no means!" no  : Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:73:22] [WIRA]
which might have been said in light of the next entry:
[33] "Boin Boin" bawin bawin = "Mosquitoes" mosquito  : Tyrrell [:9:6] []
[34] "Ba-wen" bawin = "Wallaroo" wallaroo  : Mathews 8006/3/7/ - CRITERION [:28.1:18.1] [Wira-secret]
[35] "bouan" buwan = "Thigh" thigh  : Curr, E.M.: 3 [:381.1:10] [WIRA]
[36] "Báwán" bawan = "a white stone...." stone  white: Günther WIRA (Fraser) [:73:21] [WIRA]
Collectively, these leave the meaning of ‘Barwon’ in doubt.
And after all that, we are very little the wiser about what these several river names might have meant.
Jeremy Steele
Friday 31 December 2010

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