Trying to find something else altogether (the Spanish writer José Jiménez Lozano, on whom there’s almost nothing available in English), I happened on the entry Jindyworobak movement in my Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature; struck by the name, I did a little research and thought I’d post what I found. The movement was founded in 1938 by the poet Rex Ingamells (1913-1955), “in response to L.F. Giblin’s urging that poets in Australia should portray Australian nature and people as they are in Australia, not with the ‘European’ gaze.” It started as a literary club in Adelaide and emphasized the spirit of place and the importance of Aboriginal culture; you can read more about it here and (in the South Australian context) here.

And the name? Ingamells took it from the glossary of James Devaney‘s The Vanished Tribes (1929), where it was said to mean ‘to annex, to join’; it comes from Wuywurung or Woiwurrung, an extinct language of the Melbourne area that is not even listed in Ethnologue. (As a matter of fact, none of the “Victorian” languages mentioned in the last abstract on this page [The XVIth International Conference on Historical Linguistics (ICHL 2003), Section on Aboriginal languages] —Madhimadhi, Wembawemba, Wergaia, Yota-Yota, Wathawurrung, and Woiwurrung—are in Ethnologue; perhaps Claire can clear this up when she recovers from her fieldwork.)

A word attributed to Wuywurung is the Australian slang term yabber ‘talk,’ which is probably from Wuywurung yaba ‘speak’ [M-W now (2020) derives it from Wiradhuri ya– speak]; another possibility is mia-mia, a synonym for gunyah ‘a temporary shelter of the Aborigines, usu. a simple frame of branches covered with bark, leaves, or grass,’ about which you can read in exhaustive detail here:

In the Australian National Dictionary (1988) we are told that it comes from Wathawurung and Wuywurung. Wathawurung was the language spoken on the western side of Port Phillip Bay, including the present city of Geelong and the town of Bacchus Marsh, and extending inland probably as far as the city of Ballarat. Wuywurung was the language spoken in the area of present-day Melbourne, and extending as far north as Seymour, and to the north of Westernport, and from the Goulburn River across to Bendigo. However, in Australian Aboriginal Words in English (1990), a book that also emanates from the Australian National Dictionary Centre, we are told: ‘Although this word was much used in Victoria (the earliest Victorian instance is 1839) it appears to have originated as maya or maya-maya in Nyungar, the language of the Perth–Albany region’. The Oxford English Dictionary lexicographers were puzzled by this change, and sent us a friendly ‘please explain’…

You can see a simple example of such a shelter here, and a more substantial one here.

Update (May 2020). Mia-mia now has its own (very brief) Wikipedia article, which derives the word from “the Wada Wurrung language.” The OED (entry updated December 2001) says:

Etymology: < Wathawurung and Wuywurung (southern Victoria) miam miam (1836 in G. A. Robinson Jrnl. 29 Dec., in N. J. B. Plomley Weep in Silence (1987), glossed ‘house’; also in form mimi in C. J. Griffith ‘A glossary of a few native words in the language of the Port Philip Corio-Weirabbee-Barrbul tribes’ in Diary 1840–41 (Latrobe Library, Melbourne MS. 9393), glossed ‘house/shelter’). Compare maimai n.
R. M. W. Dixon et al. Austral. Aboriginal Words in Eng. (1990) 201 note: ‘Although this word was much used in Victoria..it appears to have originated as maya or maya-maya in Nyungar, the language of the Perth–Albany region,’ but give quotations only for the Nyungar unreduplicated form mya. It seems unlikely that a Western Australian word would have spread to Southern Victorian languages via English at this date, but similar forms might have existed independently in different language groups; compare N.E.D. (1906) ‘The Western Australian and Victorian name for: A hut, a rude shelter.’


  1. i thought the Lojbanists would benefit from this
    –but evidently not.
    PS sometimes i still use a jindy word or two in my own poesy. it’s an Umbrist thing!

  2. From memory Woiwuru is the form of the name of the Melbourne language used in earlier studies. — Ah yes, and I find the Hercus word-list has only about 85 words from this language.

  3. See Update for more on Mia-mia. I should have added that the Jindyworobak Movement also now has a substantial Wikipedia article.

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