31 July 2011

South-coast words: Merimbula

A personal diary entry from January 1984 has the record: “Later we all set off by car headed for Twofold Bay150 km away approx. Did this via Bermagui and Merimbula.” Two placenames of interest are mentioned. What might they mean? As usual, McCarthy and Tyrell have something to say:

"Bermagui" barmaguwi = "Resembling a canoe with paddles" canoe— : McCarthy [:6:3] []
"Merimbula" mirimbula = "Big snake; place of two waters or lakes" waterhole two— : McCarthy [:13:31] []
"Merimbula" mirimbula = "Two waters, or divided lake" waterhole two— : Tyrrell [:29:14] []
But are McCarthy and Tyrell right?
This could be respelt:
The ‘SOUTH’ database in the BYALA database series gave no responses for ‘birma’
ba(r)ma / bu(r)ma
There were some responses to the bama (and variants) search, as follows:

bamaga-gang =
log  :
Mathews 8006/3/5 -5 [:177:13.1] [Dwl]

"[yugundu barmaiadha barmagangga-ba dhurragangga]"
bama-ya-da =
"[he stepped [slippt?] on / a log / [stream-in] ]"
step did he:
Mathews 8006/3/6- Nbk 4 [DWL] [:25:11.1] [Dwl]
"[yugundu barmaiadha barmagangga-ba dhurragangga]"
bamagang-Ga =
"[he stepped [slippt?] on / a log / [stream-in]]"
log on :
Mathews 8006/3/6- Nbk 4 [DWL] [:25:11.2] [Dwl]
bamagamburnang =
"a big log"
log big  :
Mathews 8006/3/5 -5 [:177:13.1] [Dwl]
bamad =
knee  :
Mathews NRGU 1908 [:337:30] [Nrgu]

"[Boomaningga gunna]"
buma-ni-ngGa =
"[I’m going up the hill — I going up / hill]"
ascend will I:
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [:26:19.21] [Gga]
bumara =
"wind, very strong, from any quarter"
wind  wind, high:
Mathews 8006/3/7/ - CRITERION [:73:4] [Dwl]

"[Boomaningga gunna]"
buma-ni-ngGa =
"[I’m going up the hill — I going up / hill]"
ascend will I:
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [:26:19.21] [Gga]
buma-ni-ngGa =
"up I will go; "
ascend will I:
Mathews GGA PAPS [:147:14.11] [Gga]
This database, which consists of around 12 500 records, gives little real assistance. bama or its variants, and excluding verbs (which seem unlikely for the name of a place) might mean ‘log’, ‘knee’ or ‘wind’. And there were almost no instances of the suffix ‘-guwi’. So bamaguwi remains a mystery.
This could be respelt: 
It is common in indigenous languages of the region for prenasalisation of /n/ and /b/ to occur, to produce /nd/ and /mb/. This might or might not be happening in mirimbula.
The only responses for mirim were:

mirimbidya =
"conduct contrary to tribal law"
Mathews GGA Myth [:35:19] [Gga]
mirimbidya =
"is when a woman holds a rug [?] over a man. The pirrimbir cannot spear him"
Mathews 8006/3/7/ - CRITERION [:49:1.2] [[Dwl/Gga ?]]
mirimbalang =
"[NO ENTRY] or"
himself  :
Mathews 8006/3/5 -5 [:133:1.1] [Gga]
midimbalang =
SELF  him:
Mathews 8006/3/5 -5 [:133:1.2] [Gga]

This was of very little use. 
There was nothing for either mari or marim.
Hoswever, for miri, there was a rich trove. The following are just a few examples:

miri =
"a dog"
dog  :
Mathews NGWL [:295:6.1] [Gga/Ngwl]
miri-dya =
"My dog (dog my)"
dog  me-of:
Mathews NGWL [:295:27.1] [Gga/Ngwl]
miri-dyi =
"Thy dog"
dog  thee-of:
Mathews NGWL [:295:28.1] [Gga/Ngwl]
miri-bula-dya =
"dogs both mine"
dog two  me-of:
Mathews NGWL [:295:32.1] [Gga/Ngwl]
miri-dyima-dya =
"dogs several mine"
dog plenty  me-of:
Mathews NGWL [:295:32.2] [Gga/Ngwl]
miri-gang =
dog  :
Mathews NRGU 1908 [:338:24] [Nrgu]

This is a very ‘doggish’ response. But what of bula?
This was an even richer lode, or which the following are three instances:

bula =
"Gundungurra: 2"
two  :
Mathews 8006/3/7- No 7 [:36:14] [Gga]
bula =
"two "
two  :
SofM 1897 04 30 [p.106.5: Wollondilly R.] [:107:9] [Gga]
bula =
two  :
KAOL Ridley [WODI] [:113:27] [Wodi]
In fact bula is found practically across the Australian mainland as meaning ‘two’.
The Geographcal Names Board website gives the following information about meanings:

Bermagui: Aboriginal: canoe or better, canoe with paddles. On an early plan appears as Permageua. (Reed 1967)

Merimbula: Aboriginal. Also: from 'Merimboola' for 'big snake' or 'place of two waters or lakes'. (McCarthy; 1963). Endacott (1955) says Merrimbula means Two waterholes.
The SOUTH database did not come up with any likely matches for either ‘canoe’ or ‘paddle’ for Bermagui.
But it would seem from information on the SOUTH database quite likely that Merimbula might mean ‘two dogs’.

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