went walkabout

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 24 18:56:26 UTC 2009

An expression that looks rather odd to me:

 >>“The worry is that this is going to come back as the governor who
_went walkabout_,” says Bierbauer at University of South Carolina.

The problem is not the expression itself, but finding it in South Carolina.

TheFreeDictionary lists it as Australian (as do other sources), with two
of the possible meaning for "to go walkabout" being "to be lost or
misplaced" and "to lose one's concentration", both likely applicable here.

Of the first 30600 raw ghits, most of the front 30 refer to the same
Google blog post ("Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave."). The only
exception (aside from nonsense references) is this one.

 >>Seal that went walkabout [story title]

The next non-Google-blog reference is also from the New Scientist: "How
Earth's poles went walkabout".

Of the next 60, most still refer to the same Google blog post, but there
is a sprinkling of others--most appear to be UK.

One slang dictionary lists "walkabout" as "an tour on foot by an
important person (such as a visiting member of the royal family,
politician or celebrity)". That's UK usage and does not apply here either.

Most of the ghits for "go walkabout" (43600 raw) appear to be Australian
(although some Google suggestions might be referring to Africa). Of the
47700 raw ghits for "gone walkabout" most also appear to be Australian
references. The only exception that I thought I found:

 >>Gone Walkabout: A Jesuit makes his way down

So this one is, again, Australian.

The only thing left to do is to look up Charles Bierbauer ("dean of the
University of South Carolina’s communication department and a former
political reporter"). Bierbauer was a 20-year correspondent for CNN,
covering the span from Reagan to Clinton, but he was born in Allentown,
PA. There seems to be no reason why he would have picked up Australian

So far, this remains a mystery to me. Any comments?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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