Thursday, 28 June 2012

Understanding Matilda


After yesterday's post, I thought I'd give those of you who don't know some explanation of several words in "Waltzing Matilda". This is taken from the National Library of Australia.



When Allan and Co. published the Marie Cowan version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in 1936, they felt it necessary to print a Glossary Of Australian Terms to explain the ‘dialect’ used by Paterson.
WALTZING MATILDA The act of carrying the ‘swag’ (an alternate colloquial term is ‘humping the bluey’). First reference to the term in historic newspapers:Â THE EIGHT-HOURS SYSTEM AND SHODDY ARISTOCRATS. (1891, November 16). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900), p. 7. - http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48254042
"...many times I have had to go on the "wallaby" and 'waltz Matilda' in this colony..."
Matilda is an old Teutonic female name meaning ‘mighty battle maid’. This may have informed the use of ‘Matilda’ as a slang term to mean a de facto wife who accompanied a wanderer. In the Australian bush a man's swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his ‘Matilda’. (Letter to Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, KG from Harry Hastings Pearce, 19 February 1958. Harry Pearce Papers, NLA Manuscript Collection, MS2765)
BILLABONG A small ox-bow waterhole on the outside channel of a river. Perhaps Aboriginal ‘billa” – water; “bong” – dead.
COOLIBAH Sometimes spelled coolabah: a species of gum or eucalyptus tree.
SWAGMAN An Australian itinerant worker, so called on account of the ‘swag’, usually a chaff bag, containing his ‘billy’, provisions and blankets.
BILLY An open topped tin can, with a wire carrying handle, used for boiling water into which tea was thrown.
TUCKER BAG A bag for ‘tucker’ or food.
JUMBUCK A sheep. The term may be a corruption of ‘jump up’ (Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd rev. ed. Sydney: Macquarie, 2001)
SQUATTER A grazier, pastoralist or station (ranch) owner. Note that the meaning of the word changed later in the twentieth century to mean a person who occupied or resided at a property illegally.

2 comments:

Jim said...

Good sculpture.

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