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Australia’s wonderfully weird place names – Part 1

May 23, 2012 - Jo Lane

FROM Woop Woop to Gin Gin, Nowhere Else and Humpy Bong some of Australia’s place names really are just plain weird. While things can and do get a little topsy turvy downunder this is not just because it’s at the bottom of the earth.

The penchant for using Aboriginal names for towns, hills, waterholes and even islands has created some real tongue twisters and place names you surely won’t find anywhere else. For instance Woolloomooloo in New South Wales sure beats Mississippi for its repeat of letters – it actually means young kangaroo.

Signs in the Birdsville Working Museum, Queensland. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Then there’s the settlers who presumably named places after their own experiences – Lake Disappointment in Western Australia springs to mind – but not always, as there are no bananas in Banana, Queensland.

Still if you can get your mouth around the name, your head might follow. This is part one of a list of some unusual place names in Australia, and what you’ll find when you get there.

Innaloo, Western Australia

Well we know what you’re all thinking but this suburb of Perth has nothing to do with toilets whatsoever. In fact the name has quite a history. If you think Innaloo itself is a rather funny name, just consider that it was actually originally called Njookenbooroo. Unfortunately no one, except the local Noongar Aboriginals, could pronounce it properly so they decided to change the name. They elected for the name of an Aborignal woman of the Dongara region and today there’s an Innaloo shopping centre, Innaloo Sportsmens Club and even an Innaloo Bunnings.

Statue of the famed Banana. Pic: smellis5, panoramio.com

Banana, Queensland

Queensland is renowned for its production of bananas; it’s even known as the banana state – albeit a derogatory term at times. But the town of Banana has no connection with the tropical fruit, in fact it’s actually known for its beef and coal production, and some other agriculture but no bananas! Banana, and the shire of the same name where it is located, was actually named after a dun-coloured, or yellowish, bullock. This particular Banana was used by stockmen in the late 1800s as a decoy when they were herding wild cattle into the yards. Good old Banana was a tame beast, and rather large, and became renowned throughout the district. He even has a statue in his honour (see above). Big, but not big enough to make our list of Australia’s most appalling big things.

Pic: Davros-10, panoramio.com

Mooball, New South Wales

The first thing you will notice as you approach Mooball are the black and white cow prints on the electricity poles. This is definitely a place that lives up to its name. And the store, the Moo Moo cafe, took it to another level selling every cow-related item you can think of. However the origins of the name are believed to be Aboriginal and is pronounced more like Mowball and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, means bowels! Confirmed here on this list of NSW railway station names.

Pic: roamingdownunder.com

Nowhere Else, Tasmania

Tasmania boasts remote, beautiful and unspoiled places but there is nowhere else quite like Nowhere Else. This town outside of Devonport is so small it has no pub or general store and is located on, wait for it, Nowhere Else Road.

Pic: nma.gov.au

Lake Disappointment, Western Australia

As the name might suggest, the first European explorer that happened on this body of water was expressly disappointed by what he found, hence the name. He’d noticed creeks flowing inland and followed them hoping to find a fresh water lake. But the lake was salt and it remains dry except during flood times. Of course if Frank Hann had happened on the lake during one of these he would have found incredible numbers of waterbirds and plant life and may well have named it something quite different. The aboriginal name for the lake is Kumpupirntily and was believed to be home to cannibalistic beings called the Ngayurnangalku, meaning ‘will eat me’.

Click here for Part 2, or here for Part 3

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