Verb it!

I’ve been struggling for ideas for posts, so I turned to the online discussions I had with my classmates during my masters study in 2010-12, which we were able to save as text files.

One involved the use of technology-related nouns and verbs. The discussion thread was Google it! As the name of a website, Google is a noun (and upper case), but people soon began using it as a verb and writing it in lower case. Many people decry the verbing of nouns and/or using registered company or product names as generics (see generic trademark) but both are common procedures in English. I can remember people faxing (though fax was never a proper noun, and was an abbreviation of facsimile (another common procedure in English – I don’t think anyone ever facsimilied (btw when was the last time you sent a fax?))), and references to people telexing (which was originally an upper-case proper noun). Before that, people telephoned, then ’phoned then phoned. All of these are transitive verbs: Google it, fax the document to me, fax it to me, fax me the document, ?/*fax me it, phone me, ?telephone me. (See also telegram, telegraph (including its metaphoric use) and wire.) (I can also remember an advertisement (?for a graphic designer) informing us that we could ‘fax or modem’ our requirements to them.)

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The horse is good

Between my first and second trips to Korea I gained a masters degree by online study. One of my subjects was Asian Languages, and the textbook was The Languages of East and South-East Asia by Cliff Goddard. The cover has words in three or four scripts, and the presence of the Korean word 말 (mal, word or language) in the bottom left-hand corner made me suspect that all of them had something to do with words or languages. 

One day the manager of the language college I was working at noticed the book on my desk and asked me if I knew what the first row of Chinese said. I said I didn’t. He explained that it was a four-character phrase (which I think I’d vaguely heard or read about) and said that it means something like “Few words, many actions” (more about which later). 

Soon after, my class had their weekly test and I took the book into the classroom to read or at least browse while I was supervising them. One young Chinese student took a long time to settle down to doing the test, so I held up the book and pointed to those words. That shocked her into doing her test. 

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498th post – Last day as English language teacher

Today is my last day as an English language teacher, after more than eleven and a half years at a language college, provincial government high school and university in South Korea and language colleges in Australia. I am making this move for a wide variety of reasons, related to the ESL sector in general (an Australian student visa requires attendance at classes for 20 hours per week, so most teachers are engaged for 20 hours per week, and there is very little opportunity to advance to a full-time position), the college and colleagues (some classes at some colleges are run as courses – the students start at the same time, do the course, and finish at the same time, but our English classes have been ‘start and finish when you need to’, and I’ve had to share a small office with up to four other people of various degrees of loudness in various languages, as student of various degrees of loudness in various languages come and go), the students (who have different levels of English, life experience and personal and study backgrounds, some of whom attend way less than 20 hours per week, and come and go, use their phone, chat in their own language or sleep when they are there), and myself (basically, dealing with all of the above, and commuting). 

Through English language teaching, I’ve lived in South Korea for two periods totalling three and a half years, met my wife, travelled to Hong Kong and Japan, met all kinds of other people in South Korea and Australia, gained my masters degree (and may yet go on to doctoral study), attempted to learn Korean (하지만 아직 잘 못 해요), developed a serious hobby of photography and started this blog. On the other hand, I’ve had to largely give up my other serious hobby of classical choral singing. (I can and will return to that, but it remains to be seen whether I will ever again perform at my peak.) So now it’s time for a change. From tomorrow …

Courtesy titles

Last week I applied for an administrative job at the university closest to where I live. Applying online first required creating a user account on the university’s website. Among the personal details was a choice (from a drop-down list) of:

Dr – Associate Professor – Mr – Brother – Mrs – Colonel – Miss – Dame – Ms – Dr – Prof – Father – Lady – Miss – Mohammad – Mr – Mrs – Ms – Professor – Reverend – Sir – Sister.

Given that choice, I am ‘Mr’.

Several clicks later, I arrived at the place where I actually applied for the job. There was another drop-down list with a different choice of courtesy titles, overlapping with the first:

Captain – Ambassador – Assistant Commissioner – Associate Professor – Brother – Colonel – Dame – Distinguished Professor – Doctor – Emeritus Chancellor – Emeritus Professor – Father – Judge – Justice – Lady – Lord – Miss – Mohammad – Mr – Mrs – Ms – Professor – Reverend – Sir – Sister – The Honourable – The Honourable Justice

Given that choice, I am still ‘Mr’.

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Yesterday I went to Yarramundi Reserve, a small and frankly not very interesting area at the junction of the Nepean, Grose and Hawkesbury Rivers, north-west of the Sydney metropolitan area. Yarramundi (or Yel-lo-mun-dy, or Yal-lah-mien-di, or Yèl-lo-mun-dee, or Yellomundee, or Yello_mundy, or Yellah_munde) was a leader and healer of the Buruberongal (or Boo-roo-bir-rong-gal, or Bu-ru-be-ron-gal, or Bu-ru-be-rong-al, or Boorooberongal, or Buribırȧŋál), a ‘wood tribe’ whose country extended inland from somewhere north-west of Parramatta towards and including the Nepean/Hawkesbury River.

A party of British explorers led by Governor Arthur Phillip met him and several others in April 1791, on an expedition to discover if and how the Hawkesbury (which they had previously explored upstream from its mouth) and the Nepean (which they had encountered after walking overland westward from Parramatta) met. As it turns out, the Nepean/Hawkesbury is essentially one river, but the two names have stuck, and this junction is the arbitrary point at which the names officially change. (The Grose River was named later; Major Francis Grose (later acting governor) did not arrive in the colony until 1792.)

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 5

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]

[For part 3 (Weapons) see here]

[For part 4 (The first words and Descriptions/opinions/attitudes) see here]


Many of the geographical names referred to by the writers had been bestowed by Cook in 1770. All of the writers refer to Botany Bay with no further explanation. Navy Surgeon George Worgan expects his brother to be as familiar with it as he is with a much older colonial outpost:

‘We sailed from the Cape of Good Hope … the last civilized Country We should touch at, in our Passage to Botany Bay.’

Other features named or referred to by Cook are named or referred to, sometimes also without further explanation, or by formulae such as ‘so named by Capn Cook’ or a full explanation:

‘Sutherland Point, so named from Forby Sutherland, one of Capt. Cook’s Sailors dying at this place & being there buried’ (Navy Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth); ‘an Inlet on the Coast … which, our great Circumnavigator, Captns Cook, discovered, and named, (in honour of one of the then Commissioners of the Navy) Port Jackson’ (Worgan).

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 4

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]

[For part 3 (Weapons) see here]

The first words

Three writers agree in recording the first native word: wara (Captain John Hunter) / warra (Judge Advocate David Collins) / whurra (Marine Lieutenant Watkin Tench) (Jakelin Troy, in her various academic publications, adopts the spelling wuruwuru), which Tench states ‘signifies, begone’. (Collins, rather circuitously, says that this word, ‘by the gestures that accompanied [it], could not be interpreted into invitations to land, or expressions of welcome’; Hunter does not specifically interpret it.) The writers adopt different spellings (foreshadowing recurring difficulties regarding orthography) and disagree about the circumstances. Hunter places it as the ships were sailing into the bay: the English were not welcome in the first place. Tench places it at the end of an hour’s apparently friendly conversation, and Collins as the governor’s longboat sailed from Botany Bay to Port Jackson: the British may or may not have been welcome, but had overstayed.

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 3

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]


In any interaction between opposed groups, weapons can be utilised by visibly laying them down, brandishing them, demonstrating them (not against people), or using them against people. The first three of these occurred, on both sides, during the first interactions. Navy Surgeon George Worgan reports:

‘the Governor … shewed them his Musket, then laid it on the Ground, advancing singly towards them, they now seeing that He had nothing in his Hands like a Weapon one of y oldest of the Natives gave his Spears to a younger, and approached to meet the Governor.’

Navy Lieutenant Philip Gidley King writes:

‘two of the Natives then approached but kept their Spears poised, being fearfull of the Marines who were at some distance in the rear … one of them threw a lance wide of us, in order to shew the force & power of their arms, the distance it was thrown was as near as I could guess about forty Yards, & when it was taken out of the Ground it required an Exertion to pull it out. As this might be deemed a threat, which was accompanied with much generosity in shewing the power of their Arms, I advanced again towards them, on which they retreated backwards, & seeing that no advantage could be gained by a longer stay I joined the party & we went down the hill to go to the Boat we had scarcely got to the foot of the hill when a lance was thrown amongst us, but without any striking any person, As they appeared on the top of the Hill & seemed disposed to throw more lances I ordered one of the Marines to fire his musquet with powder only, on which they flew with great haste.’

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Botany Bay, 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 1

In 2012, one of my masters subjects was on Australia’s Indigenous Languages. One chapter in the textbook was on personal and language contact between the British and the local people in the early years of British settlement here. Being generally interested in Australian history, I checked some of the original sources (available online) and found there was a lot else about language in particular and communication in general. In fact there was so much that I had to limit my essay to the first nine days, from when the British ships arrived in Botany Bay to when they relocated in Sydney Harbour. The word limit was 2000 words, but I included a lot of quotations, in the text and in footnotes. There was also a very large number of footnotes. Reproducing the essay here, I have moved most of the quotations in footnotes into the text and deleted all the footnotes. (The longer quotations were originally in the text, and the shorter ones in footnotes.) I have also added a few comments in square brackets.

First impressions: Intercourse between the British and the Gamay-gal and Gwea-gal
around Gamay/Botany Bay 18–26 January 1788

Between 18 and 20 January 1788, the 11 ships of the First Fleet sailed into Gamay/Botany Bay. On 26 January, they sailed from there to Waran/Sydney Cove. In between, the British and the Gamay-gal and Gwea-gal interacted non-verbally, exchanged possessions, demonstrated weapons, learned their first words of the others’ language and began patterns of interactions which were to shape the next few years in particular and the next 22[9] in general. At least 12 published accounts and unpublished journals survive, making it possibly the best-documented first contact between a colonial force and an indigenous people in history. [While researching for my honours dissertation, I found approximately 25. The most important ones are covered in this essay.]

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NAIDOC Week, Gadigal, Eora

This week is NAIDOC Week. The acronym officially refers to the ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ and the week is sometimes referred to as the ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Days of Celebration’. At church on Sunday there was a short act of remembrance, including the words ‘We also acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and worship – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation’. There is a plaque to the same effect in the foyer of the building.

The tribal name Cadigal is attested in the writings of the early British colonial period from 1788 to approximately 1801. The Cadigal took their name from Cadi, the land ‘[f]rom the entrance of the harbour, along the south shore, to the cove adjoining this settlement [then called Long Cove, now called Darling Harbour]’ (Governor Arthur Phillip). They were ‘reduced … to three persons’ by the epidemic (usually identified as smallpox) of 1789, no doubt because their country lay adjacent to the British settlement.

The word ‘eora’ is not as clear in its scope. Judge Advocate and Colonial Secretary David Collins wrote ‘I then asked him [Bennelong] where the black men (or Eora) came from?’. The word also appears in his word list ‘Eo-rā, The name common for the natives.’, and in those of Marine Lieutenant William Dawes ‘Eeōra Men, or people’, three anonymous writers ‘People, Eo_ra (or) E_ō_rāh +’; Navy Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King ‘Eo-ra, Men or People.’, and Navy Midshipman Daniel Southwell ‘Yo-ra, A number of people.’ and ‘People. E-o-rāh.’.

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