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Friday, 11 November 2011

Stuart's Daily Word Spot: Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo, photo taken at Western Plains Zo...Image via Wikipedia
Kangaroo: noun - a herbivorous marsupial mammal of the family Macropodidae, from Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, having small front limbs, powerful hind legs and long feet, which allow it to leap great distances, using its long tail for balance; an Australian representing the nation in sport; in Britain, a parliamentary closure by which some amendments are selected for discussion and others excluded; also used in combinations, such as 'Kangaroo Court', a derogatory term for bad justice.

The word, Kangaroo, is derived from a Guugu Yimithirr word 'gangurru', which refers to grey kangaroos. The story about how the kangaroo got its English name isn't true; it's an urban myth. The story goes that "kangaroo" was an aboriginal word for "I don't understand you." and Captain Cook, exploring the area and coming upon the animal, asked a local what it was called. The local said 'gangurru ', and Cook is supposed to have wrongly assumed it was the name of the creature.
In fact, the aboriginal really was providing the name of the creature, as the linguist, John B. Haviland, has subsequently shown in his research with the Guugu Yimithirr people.

'No matter how they constructed the fences around the vast ranch, there was nothing they could do to exclude the kangaroos.'

'When it became public knowledge that Gordon, a well-known eccentric, had been accused of molesting a small child, the local macho men formed a kangaroo court and decided he must be guilty, so they set fire to his house whilst he was sleeping there.'

11 Nov 2011 - Armistice Day: at 11:11:11:11, in the UK, there will be two minute's silence to commemorate the fallen of many conflicts. No doubt, some numerologist somewhere will make more of this coincidence than it merits, and, in so doing, detract from the main purpose of the event.
For a reading of the evocative and moving 'In Flanders Field' go to  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15691951

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