You’ve probably heard the story about how kangaroos were named by early English explorers. First published in 1888, the story goes that Captain James Cook ran aground in 1770 and saw an animal he could not identify. There were over 250 aboriginal languages in Australia and when he asked his interpreter/guide what it was he said something that sounded like kangaroo and meant either I don’t know or I don’t understand. “Ah yes,” the captain acknowledged. “The kangaroo.” It has been known since 1898, although not widely acknowledged, that “gangarru” in the language of the Guugu Yimidhirr people is the origin for the English word kangaroo. Alas, the truth is more boring than fiction. If you don’t believe me, let Ken Jennings explain it.
The English were incredible colonizers and empire builders but terribly unoriginal at naming things. The colony New Netherlands became New York when they took over and New Amsterdam became New York City. You know, up in New England.Continue reading