"Laughing Jackass" Etymology of "Canberra" (Australia's capital)
dave at WILTON.NET
Tue Feb 25 00:44:09 UTC 2003
> Here's the article:
> "London, March 17. -- Australians are considerably agitated,
> according to the Daily Chronicle's correspondent in Melbourne, by the
> report that 'Canberra,' the name recently selected for the new ideal
> capital city of the commonwealth, really means 'laughing jackass.'
> Archibal[d?] Meston, a noted Queensland authority on aboriginal
> names, makes the amusing assertion, after having studied the
> derivation of the word. Those who regard the author's verdict as
> correct are blaming the government for not taking the preliminary
> precaution of having ascertained the meaning of 'Canberra' before
> coming to a decision.
> "The laughing jackass of Australia is not a jackass, but a large
> bird, which is highly appreciated by farmers because it kills snakes.
> The name 'laughing jackass' is given to the bird because of its
> raucous cry, which it emits usually at sunup and sundown. The cry so
> resembles the laughter of a human being in uncontrolled glee that it
> is almost impossible for those who hear it constantly to retain their
It looks like the noted Queensland authority confused "Canberra" with
"kookaburra" or, to use an older term, "goburra." The latter two are the
names for the bird, Dacelo novae-guineae, also known as the "laughing
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