Australian Dictionary

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Australia Decoded

Dryandra Woodland Forest

Dryandra Woodland Forest

Djab Wurrung
—an Aboriginal language group comprising over 40 clans. Their territory covered a large part of south-west Victoria, including portions of the Grampians. The Djab Wurrung peoples inhabited this territory for 22,500 years before European settlement. Major Thomas Mitchell rode across the lands of the tribal group in September 1836. Four years later, the brothers Alexander and Colin Campbell came to the district from Glasgow as squatters, bringing the first sheep to the area.

Djabugay—means ‘people of the rainforest’. These are the indigenous tribespeople, or Bama, who occupied land along the foothills between Cairns to Port Douglas and inland to Kuranda, Far North Queensland. The first pack tracks and dray road that connected Cairns to the newly discovered Hodgkinson goldfield passed through their territory. Also spelled Tjapai.

Djadawitjibi—Ramingining is a small, remote Aboriginal community in Central Arnhem Land, located some 400km east of Darwin and nearly 30km from the Arafura Sea. The tract of land upon which the township is built is owned by the Djadawitjibi people of the Djinang group. Their principal creative being is Garrtjambal, the red kangaroo. Travelling from the south-east in the Roper River region, across the mainland and over to Milingimbi, Garrtjambal links all the land-owning groups in the region. The name Bula'bula was selected in 1989 by local artists for their co-operative as it refers to the message embodied in the song-cycle of Garrtjambal's journey from the Roper River to the Ramingining region. More literally, Bula'bula translates as the tongue, or voice, of the kangaroo.

Djakunda—an Aboriginal people of Queensland, who once inhabited the country between the upper Boyne and Auburn rivers; north to Hawkwood; and south to the Great Dividing Range and the vicinity of Kumbia. These people spoke a language rather similar to Barbaram and physically seem similar to the Barrinean people. Some parts of their country possessed bunya pine forests.

Djangati—an Aboriginal people of the northern coastal area of New South Wales.

Djargurd Wurrung—an Aboriginal people who lived in the area of the Otway Plain, Victoria, prior to European settlement. They were mainly concentrated in open or lightly timbered country with access to permanent water.

Djauan—(see: Jawoyn).

Djerimanga—an Aboriginal people from near present-day Darwin NT, from the coastal plain at the mouth of the Adelaide River; east to the Mary River floodplains; originally south to Margaret River and the first foothills of the Ringwood Range. The Djowei moved west to take over their inland territory. Alternate names: Djeramanga, Jermangel, Waak (a valid alternative), Wulna, Woolna (place name), Woolnah, Woolner, Wulnar, Wolna, Woolner.

Djinang—an Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory—from the Crocodile Islands and Milingimbi, south to the middle reaches of the Blyth River; east to Glyde Inlet and the true Glyde River which originates in the Arafura Swamp. Their territory touches only the northern edge of this great swamp. There are varying degrees of bilingualism in Ganalbingu (Djinba dialect), Gupapuyngu, Djambarrpuyngu, Chuwal, or Dhuwala. There is limited use of English. Wulaki people are bilingual in Burarra. Djinang speakers intermarry with the Djinba.

Djinba—an inland Aboriginal tribe. Their territory extended south from the northern edge of the great Arafura Swamp to the upper waters of the true Goyder River; west to the divide with Guyuyu Creek; east only to where eastern creeks enter the Arafura Swamp. This appears to be the northernmost tribe in eastern Arnhem Land to preserve the usual Australian tribal structure. It has both Dua and Trijet clans. Past confusion about the territorial limits of the tribe have been accentuated by misidentifications of the Goyder River, which terminates in the Arafura Swamp. A coastal estuarine stream that flows from its northern margin is the true Glyde River. The Woolen River, which lies to the east, has been incorrectly marked as the Goyder on some anthropologist's sketch maps.

Djingulu—an Aboriginal people of the Cairns area of Queensland.

do—1. beat up; thrash; assault: e.g., I'll do him if I ever see his face around here again. 2. cheat or swindle: e.g., He'll do you if you're not careful. 3. lose, forfeit, expend or consume completely: e.g., He did his dough on the pokies.

do a backflip—demonstrate a strong emotion, such as anger, excitement, joy etc.

do a bunk—(see: do a flit).

do a dash—depart in a hurry.

do a Farnham—(see: do a Melba).

do a flit—1. elope; escape; run away, especially from a commitment or responsibility. 2. change one's place of residence quickly and secretly in order to avoid someone.

do a freeze—suffer from being very cold: e.g., I do a freeze every time I go to Melbourne.

do a line with (someone)—(of a man) flirt with a woman with a view to seduction.

do a Melba—return from retirement repeatedly, to give 'farewell' performances. From Dame Nellie Melba, who retired from the stage a number of times. Lately, this reference to Dame Nellie may be heard replaced with 'do a Farnham'.

do a perish—to die.

do a runner—(see: do a flit).

do it tough—have a hard time; struggle.

do (one's) block—lose one's temper: spit the dummy, chuck a wobbly, etc.

do (one's) bum—ruin (oneself) financially; go broke in a failed venture.

do (one's) bun/cruet—lose (one's) temper.

do (one's) lolly/nana/narna/nut—lose (one's) temper; become suddenly angry.

do (oneself) a mischief—to injure (oneself), especially of a man injuring his genitals.

do (someone) dirt—behave unfairly, unjustly, wrongly towards (someone).

do (someone) like a dinner—defeat (someone) soundly either physically, verbally, mentally or in some form of contest; get the better of (someone).

do (someone) proud—treat lavishly.

do the dirty—use unfair tactics; cheat; behave unjustly and corruptly.

do the rounds of the kitchen—1. perform the usual duties in the kitchen; tidy up; housework. 2. lose one's temper; verbally abuse someone.

do the trick—achieve the desired result.

do wees—urinate.

dob in—contribute, especially money; donate: e.g., We all dobbed in for a present for the boss.

dob on (someone)—betray; tell on; inform on: e.g., A dinky-di Aussie battler would never dob on his workmates.

dob (someone) in—1. betray; inform on. 2. nominate someone for an unpleasant task, usually in that person's absence.

dobber—an informer.

dobbin—name for any large workhorse or aged, inferior horse.

docker—a worker in the dockyards.

Docker, Reverend Joseph—(1793-1865) was born at Newby Head, Cumbria in England. After working as an assistant curate, Docker married and immigrated to Sydney in 1828. He became rector of St Matthew’s, Windsor for five years, but gave it away to farm a local estate he had bought. Encouraged by Major Mitchell’s account, he decided to move to the Port Philip District. The family travelled in covered bullock-wagons, crossing the Murray at Crossing-Place (Albury) in 1838. He obtained the squatting rights of a run the Aborigines called Bontharambo (on the Ovens River, near Wangaratta). It had been deserted by its owner, whose shepherds had been killed by Aborigines. Docker’s sympathetic approach to these people was rewarded with their friendship and support.

Docker River (Kaltatjara) Community—an especially isolated outback Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. Docker River is the last stop on the Gunbarrel Highway, on the border with Western Australia. This settlement was a government creation for resettlement of dispossessed Anangu people in the 1960s.

docket—a bill or a receipt.


doctor's surgery—doctor's office.

dodger—1. artful, elusive, shifty or dishonest person. 2. bread. 3. a sausage: e.g., Throw another bunch of dodgers on the barbie. 4. a pamphlet that is distributed in the street to passers-by.

dodgy—1. awkward; unreliable; tricky. 2. cunning; artful.

doer—1. one who gets things done; an efficient person; a trier. 2. an eccentric, amusing or odd person: e.g., He's a bit of a doer, is our Alf.

doesn't know B from a bull's foot/ whether (one) is Arthur or Martha/ whether it's Pitt Street or Christmas/ whether it's Tuesday or Bourke Street—pertaining to somebody who is stupid or always confused.

doesn't know (someone) from a bar of soap—doesn't have any acquaintance with.

Dog Fence—(the...) a long-standing attempt to keep the dingo away from farms and pastoral holdings, the Dog Fence traverses five deserts and three states. It's the longest man-made structure in the world, stretching 5400km from the Great Australian Bight in SA through most of Queensland. It passes by rocket ranges, nuclear test areas, uranium mines, salt lakes and Aboriginal sacred sites. Some parts of the fence are more than a century old, built by individual farmers to protect their stock. After the Second World War, in 1946, a single-line dog fence was established. On maps of Australia, this fence resembles a jagged graph bisecting South Australia, NSW and south-eastern Queensland. Camels are a continual problem, as they trample and destroy the fence, allowing the dogs to break through. Also known as the Dingo Fence.

dog license—a contemptuous term for the certificate issued to some Aborigines, exempting them from laws that applied to Aborigines only, especially laws against their buying alcohol. The select few who were awarded a dog licence became 'honorary whites'. Dog licences or dog tags were issued in most states until the 1960s.

dog n' bone—(rhyming slang) telephone.

dog tied up—(to have a...) to have an unpaid debt.

dog's breakfast—any untidy mess.

dog's disease—a cold or the flu.

dog's eye—(rhyming slang) pie.

dog-tucker—(of an animal or food) fit only to be used as food for dogs.

Doganbuganaram—an inconspicuous mound somewhere in western New South Wales. The spot was named by a surveyor in the 1860s who is said to have shared his camp with a dog, a bug and a ram.

dogbox—1. train compartment without a corridor. 2. very small house; cramped living quarters. 3. sleeper box (compartment) on a semi-trailer.

dogger—dingo hunter.

dogs—(the...) 1. greyhound racing: e.g., See you at the dogs next week. 2. (cap) Footscray Bulldogs VFL football team.

dogwoodAcacia bidwillii, a small tree of 3-4m. It grows both on hillsides and flats. Roots of young trees were roasted and eaten by Aborigines. The dogwood has gained its name from smelling somewhat as though a dog has recently urinated on it. Also known as corkwood wattle.

doing it tough—enduring or withstanding difficult conditions: e.g., Since the hurricane hit, the people of Honduras have been doing it tough.

doing over—a sound beating, bashing, defeat or scolding.

doings—ingredients; necessary items.

dole—(the...) unemployment benefits. The federal government provides a flat rate of financial support to any unemployed person for an indefinite period of time, on the provision the dole receiver is not supported by a working partner (whether married or de facto), and makes regular job applications. The idea behind this plan is to avoid the emergence of slums and all their attendant social problems.

dole-bludger—unemployed person held in contempt for receiving government benefits without making serious effort to find work.

doley—1. person receiving the dole. 2. (see: dole-bludger).

dollarbirdEurystomus orientalis, arrives in northern and eastern Australia in September of each year, to breed between October and January. During this time, pairs are often seen flying in characteristic, rolling flights. These flights are more common in the evening, and are accompanied by cackling calls. The three to four white eggs are laid in an unlined tree hollow and are incubated by both adults. The young birds are also cared for by both parents. In March or April the birds return to New Guinea and adjacent islands to spend the winter. In Australia, it inhabits open wooded areas, normally with mature, hollow-bearing trees suitable for nesting. The dollarbird is the sole Australian representative of the Roller family, so named because of their rolling courtship display flight.

dolly—(cricket) easily hit or caught.

dolly mixture—any of a mixture of small, variously shaped and coloured sweets.

dolly-bird—an attractive and stylish young woman.

Dominions of the Empire—"autonomous Communities within the British Empire—united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as the British Commonwealth of Nations"—the Balfour Declaration of 1926. Dominion status consisted of internal self-government and a considerable degree of freedom in foreign relations.

don't bust a foofer valve/boiler—don't try too hard or over-exert yourself or you might cause yourself injury.

don't come the raw prawn—don't try deceive (indicating that the speaker is wise to someone's attempt to con).

don't get your knickers in a knot/twist—admonition not to get upset or angry so quickly.

don't go nap on—to not favour, agree with, like: e.g., He never went nap on wine, but loved his beer.

don't pick your nose or your head will cave in—an insult to someone who is not very clever, lacking in intelligence.

don't stand around like a bottle of stale piss—don't shirk your responsibilities by standing around and being idle.

done like a (dog's) dinner -completely and utterly defeated.

done like a roast dinner—completed to one's satisfaction.

done (one's) dash—to have lost (one's) chance or opportunity.

done (one's) dough—1. to have spent all (one's) money foolishly; to have lost (one's) money gambling. 2. to have been cheated of (one's) money.

dong—1. to hit or punch. 2. engine.

donga—1. poor living quarters; tin shed; five- or ten-man hut used as temporary quarters for single male workers. 2. remote, country areas: e.g., He lives up the donga somewhere.


donkey—1. silly, obstinate or foolish person; fool. 2. a cigarette that is lit from another cigarette.

donkey lick—defeat resoundingly.

donkey orchidDiuris corymbosa. Flowering in profusion after summer wildfires, the donkey orchid persists in many areas of remnant bushland near Perth. It reproduces rapidly by means of underground root tubers and as a result often forms large colonies, with dozens or even hundreds of flowering stems. The donkey orchids are among the most well known orchids in WA. More than 30 species are found in the south-west, many still undescribed. Donkey orchids mimic the flowers of associated peas and are pollinated by insects that have been deceived into searching for nectar in their flowers. Unlike most other WA orchids, which have just one leaf, donkey orchids regularly have two or more leaves. Each plant has between two and eight distinctive yellow and reddish-brown wallflower-coloured flowers. The two upright petals of donkey orchids resemble donkey ears and give the plant its common name. The donkey orchid is equally at home in deep, sandy soils of banksia woodlands on the coastal plain and in the heavier soils of the jarrah forest. It often grows on the margins of winter-wet swamps. It is widely distributed between Dongara and Albany, with sporadic occurrences eastwards to the Esperance area. Flowering time is September to October. Other names: common donkey orchid, wallflower orchid.

donkey vote—the insertion of preference numbers on a ballot paper in the same order as the listed candidates with no thought given to actual preferences.

donkey work—tedious work; drudgery.

donkey's years—a long time.

donkey-lick—defeat soundly and easily, especially in horse-racing.

doobrie/doobrieshankle/doodackie/doodad/doodah—1. any trifling ornament, decoration or trivial gadgetry. 2. any object for which one cannot remember the correct name immediately.

doodlebug—idle, ineffectual person.

dooks—hands (digger dialect).

Doomadgee—an Aboriginal community in the Gulf of Carpentaria, established in 1931 by the Christian Brothers as the Dumaji Mission. This was done in response to local hostility toward Indigenous people. Their feeling was backed up by government policy and an announcement by the local police sergeant that all Aboriginals should be further removed from the fringes of the township, where many resided. The settlement was moved inland from Bayley Point to its present location after a cyclone in 1936. The present site, on the Nicholson River between Burketown and the Northern Territory border, was settled in 1937 with the building of log hostels and a school. The community is now engaged in the cattle industry, and is becoming involved in providing services for travellers. The Gangallida and Waanyi peoples are the main inhabitants of Doomadgee. Doomadgee has a population of approximately 1198 (as of June 2001), of which 93 per cent of the total population are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin.

doona—a thick, soft quilt with a detachable cover, used instead of an upper sheet and blankets.

doona cover—a pillow-case like cover for a doona, usually with snaps or buttons at one end; a duvet cover.

doorknock—1. an appeal in which agents for a (charitable) cause go from house to house soliciting contributions. 2. a campaign in support of a political party, run similarly. 3. a police canvasing of an area in a similar manner, to gain information (on a crime, etc).

Dories—the name 'Dory' comes from old French doree, meaning 'gilded,' referring to the dories' shiny skin. These large-eyed, silvery fish with flat, disc-shaped bodies and spiny fins are generally found in deep water on or near the ocean bed. The most common commercial dories in Australia belong to the Zeidae family, named for the powerful Greek god Zeus and known as the 'true' dories. They are among Australia's most popular fish.

Dorothy Dixer—political expression of Australian invention but derived from an American advice columnist, Dorothy Dix. It was widely believed that "Dorothy Dix" wrote the questions as well as the answers for her own column. Thus, when a minister of parliament is asked a question by a backbench member of his own party, which gives him a chance to promote himself or his party, it's labelled a "Dorothy Dixer".

Dorrigo National Park—a World Heritage rainforest with park facilities, covering an area of 11,800ha. The most spectacular feature of the park is the Skywalk, (70 metres, level) and Walk with the Birds (500 metres return with seating provided). Picnic with the brush turkeys at The Glade, and visit the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre. This is one of the earliest National Parks to be dedicated in Australia, located 40km west of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.

Doryphora sassafras—(see: Australian sassafras).


doss down—sleep in temporary bedding arrangements.

dosshouse—cheap boarding house for homeless men.

dot painting—the traditional visual art form of the Aborigines in Western Australia. Dot paintings are named after the patterns created from small dots of paint, which cover the entire surface of the painting. These dots create patterns, many of which are symbols easily recognized by those familiar with the legends and stories they illustrate. Symbols for campfires, walking paths, animal tracks, fertile soil for wild yams, and water sources are common elements of Aboriginal paintings, each created in coloured dots.

dots and carries one—walks with a limp.

dotty—1. feeble-minded; silly. 2. eccentric. 3. absurd. 4. (...about, on) infatuated with; obsessed by.

double—1. a ticket for two. 2. a bet on two horses in different races.

double dissolution—the simultaneous dissolution of the upper and lower houses of Parliament, as a means of breaking a deadlock within the existing government. This may occur only when the Senate has twice failed to pass a bill that has been introduced and passed by the House of Representatives. Further, there must be a period of no less than three months between the Senate’s first failure to pass the bill and its second passage by the House; and if the Senate again rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, then the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. The disagreement between the Houses is then presented to the people for resolution by special election. Such dissolution cannot take place within six months of the date of the scheduled expiry for the House of Representatives. Double dissolutions have occurred six times during the history of the federal Parliament.

double drummerThopha saccata, one the largest cicadas in Australia with a song to match. One of the loudest of all cicadas, its high-pitched, erratic whine sounds a bit like a bad bagpipe player. When populations are dense, these cicadas are almost unbearable to be near when they sing in unison. Adults can be found from November to March and tend to gather on large eucalypt trees. Often many adults emerge together, and clusters of empty nymph skins (called exuviae) can be seen around the bases of eucalypts. The double drummer seems to have a tendency to fly out to sea. Thousands of individuals have been reported as far as 8km offshore. Their bodies are sometimes washed up on beaches. Distribution: Eastern Australia. Habitat: Urban areas, forests and woodlands. Status: Common Size: Wingspan 12-15 cm.

double-banking—double parking.

double-convict—(hist.) a convict found guilty of an offence after transportation.

double-decker—1. a bus having an upper and lower deck. 2. anything consisting of two layers.

double-dink—to carry an extra person on a bicycle or horse.

double-Dutch—nonsense; gibberish; talk which cannot be understood.

double-quick—very quick or quickly.

dowak—a Nyoongar word for the waddy or throwing stick, a non-returnable boomerang more powerful than the returning kind, they were used to injure or even kill a kangaroo. Originally, a “boomerang” just meant throwing stick. The Aboriginal hunter normally did not require a throwing stick to return. Its purpose was to hit and injure its target sufficiently to enable it to be captured, or slow enough for the spear throwers to get into range. The non-returning types depicted in Carnavon Gorge show how sophisticated they became as hunting weapons. Usually made from tough acacia wood, some are hooked like a pick, while others are designed to cartwheel along the ground to break the legs of game. Thus immobilized, one animal would be killed while another could be easily tracked to meet the same fate.

down the boozer—at the pub: e.g., Hubby's down the boozer with his mates.

down the gurgler—lost, failed or wasted through mismanagement, misuse or misadventure: e.g., All my savings went down the gurgler when that company went broke.

down the road—an unspecified distance, often much farther than it's made to sound.

down to the ground—completely; e.g., That arrangement suits me down to the ground.

down tools—1. cease work: e.g., It's time to down tools and go to the pub. 2. begin a strike.

Down Under—pertaining to Australia and its inhabitants; in Australia; Australian: e.g., Life is all beer and skittles Down Under.

downy—sly; canny; knowing: e.g., He's a downy bird.



drab—1. a slut; slattern. 2. a prostitute.

drack/dracky—1. (especially of a woman) unattractive. 2. dismal, dull.

drack sack/sort—slattern; unattractive person, especially a woman: e.g., What a drack sort his wife is.

drag over the carpet—to berate, severely criticise, chastise.

drag the chain—1. try to get out of one's share of the work. 2. to lag behind, especially in a drinking round.

drag up—1. deliberately mention an unwelcome subject. 2. rear a child roughly and without proper training.

dragged—(Australian Rules football) changed for another player, taken off the field by the coach for a mistake.

dragged screaming from the tart shop—pertaining especially to politicians who must face something—like an election—reluctantly, and who complain noisily.

draggy—1. tedious. 2. unpleasant.

dragon—any of various lizards, as the bearded lizard or the frill-necked lizard.

drainage basin—a catchment area from which another body of water receives its water. Australia is divided into drainage divisions that are sub-divided into water regions that are in turn sub-divided into river drainage basins. These basins were named and numbered by the Australian Water Resources Council (AWRC) in the 1960s. Altogether there are 245 drainage basins, 77 water regions, and 12 drainage divisions.

drainage division—broad regions of the Australian continent defined by an aggregation of adjoining river basins that have either shared discharge points, or a comparable geography or climate.

draught—British spelling of draft (draughtboard, draughtsman, etc).

draw a veil over—avoid discussing or drawing attention to: e.g., The police have drawn a veil over the matter.

draw first blood—initiate the first move and gain an initial advantage.

draw stumps—(cricket) take the stumps out of the ground at the close of play.

draw the crabs/crow—1. attract undesirable, unwelcome attention or criticism. 2. receive the worst part of a bargain, allocation etc.

drawing a long bow—1. to be acting on a minimal chance; a long shot. 2. unbelievable; hard to believe.

dreaded lurgi/lurgy—an imaginary disease used as an excuse to get out of doing something.

Dreaming—the Aboriginal peoples' time of creation: from the term 'dream-time', an English translation of the Arrernte word Tjurkurpa. The English word 'dreaming' lacks the associations of power, significance and creative force that this concept holds in Aboriginal culture, but it is now established in both Aboriginal English and Australian English. It was a time when everything emanated from the same source, and during this time, their ancestors are believed to have walked the earth as the powers and forces behind all creation. The Dreaming shaped the physical, spiritual, and moral world of all Aborigines, and is still manifest within, and sustains, their present. Within their ancestral lands, Indigenous Australians are the inheritors and protectors of that creation. The proscribed relationships between the people and their environment are embodied in these beliefs. The rituals that recall and reinforce this identification are often identified with a particular place. These sacred sites are deemed necessary to the spiritual Dreaming that unites the people with their land and their cultural inheritance. Dreamtime stories embody the laws and responsibilities for caring for the land, sea and waterways to which Aboriginal people belong. The Dreamtime is a blend of mythology and legend embodying a 40,000-year-old culture.

Dreaming trails—an intercontinental linkage of Aboriginal occupation and sacred sites. These trails often coincide with the ancient Aboriginal trade routes that criss-cross the country.

Dreamtime—refers to the creation era when spirit ancestors made epic journeys across a flat and barren landscape, creating the geographical features of the land and every living thing. During this creation period the ancestors created the laws that govern Aboriginal life, in law, religion, spiritual values and social relationships. The Dreaming sets down the relationship of people to their land and to every living creature in it. Through descent from Creation Ancestors, people belong to a certain stretch of country and maintain responsibility for caring for the environmental and spiritual wellbeing of that country. The stories, particular designs and images are ‘owned’ by those people as their Dreaming. A person’s Dreaming is the place where that person’s spirit came from and to where it must return.

drench—to orally administer a medication to animals for the prevention of worms.

dress down—reprimand or scold.

dressing gown—bathrobe.

drill—recognised procedure or routine: e.g., What's the drill?

drink driving—drunk driving.

drink the piss from a brewer's horse—(he'd...) pertaining to an alcoholic, or one who thoroughly enjoys his alcohol.

drink with the flies—to drink (alcohol) alone, without company.

drive (someone) around the twist—to exasperate, annoy, irritate (someone).

drive (someone) mental—annoy, irritate, exasperate (someone).

drivel on—talk foolishly and at length.

drivelling idiot—moron (a contemptuous term).

driving two up—two drivers to share the log-book hours.

Driza-Bone—an oilskin, all-weather riding coat; originated for outback bushmen and stockmen, cut long enough to keep the rain from running into their boots; for generations, the preferred coat for men of action; now an Aussie icon.

drone—1. lazy, idle person. 2. boring speaker. 3. freeloader; person who lives off other people.


drongo—1. a fool; an inept or stupid person. The term derives from a racehorse (born 1920) of the same name. In his entire career, he never won a single race—yet he often came very close to winning major races. Although quickly applied to people who were inept or ill-starred, the original meaning was revived at Flemington in 1977 when a Drongo Handicap was held. 2. Dicrurus bracteatus, the spangled drongo. Common in rainforest patches and tall melaleucas along watercourses in the north Kimberley. 3. recruits in the Royal Australian Air Force during the 1940s.

droob—1. stupid, dull-witted person; hopeless, unattractive person. 2. minute, paltry, trifling amount.

drool on (about something)—talk nonsense, rubbish, drivel.

drooping she-oakAllocasuarina verticillata verticillata relates to the whorled arrangement of the very reduced leaves around the stem, (as in bike spokes). The word 'she-oak' comes from the recognition by the early colonial craftsmen that an inferior (in their opinion) oak grain could be achieved by cutting the logs on the quarter (a specialised saw milling technique) and using the wood for crafting etc.

drooping velvet bush—a very attractive, small-to-medium shrub growing to between 50cm and 2m. The apple-green, droopy leaves are cordate in shape. White flowers appear in clusters in spring. Prefers a sunny to semi-shaded position in a well-drained, alkaline soil. Endemic to Victoria and South Australia. The Victorian species is found on cliff tops and dune woodlands; as a small population within heathlands between Port Fairy and Warrnambool; and from Portland to the South Australian border. In South Australia, the drooping velvet bush extends from the Victorian border along the coast to the Younghusband Peninsula. The SA species is also found on the Yorke and Eyre peninsulas, and on Kangaroo Island.

droopy-drawers—slow, lazy, idle, ineffective, incompetent person.

drop a brick—make a glaring social blunder, faux pas.

drop a bundle—give birth.

drop a clanger—disclose something embarrassing or a piece of startling information, either intentionally or inadvertently.

drop bears—mutant koalas that drop on to people's shoulders and hug them to death. They exhibit a strong preference for gullible tourists, especially Americans. Nothing is known about them, because no one has ever survived an attack.

drop like flies—sicken and/or die in great numbers: e.g., During the drought our sheep dropped like flies.

drop on your head!—an insult; derogatory remark of contempt, dismissal.

drop (one's) bundle—1. lose (one's) nerve; give up. 2. (of a woman) give birth.

drop (one's) daks—let (one's) pants fall.

drop (one's) gear—get undressed.

drop pass/punt—(Australian Rules football) a kick made with the ball held vertically before dropping it on to the foot.

drop scone—pikelet.

drop (someone) in—inform on (someone); betray: e.g., Someone dropped him in to the police.

drop test—(joc.) a method of either repairing or testing the durability of a device, item (by dropping it).

drop-goal—(rugby) a goal scored with a drop-kick.

drop-in—too much alcohol: e.g., I can see you've had a drop-in!

drop-kick—1. an obnoxious, disliked person. 2. (Australian Rules football; rugby) a kick made by dropping the ball and kicking it on the bounce.

dropsies—clumsy dropping of things; inability to hand on to anything safely.

drought pastureland—an area of pastureland that is used for grazing only during drought. This practice helps to assure that the frequently recurring periods of drought within Australia not result in the death of a herd. Many pastoralists in recent years have turned to the Central Land Council for grazing licences on Aboriginal land, which has ample fodder through having been left unused.

drover—person who drives herds, usually over long distances; a cattle dealer.

drover's dog—anyone inconsequential or unimportant.

droving—to drive, as cattle or sheep, especially on long journeys; to follow the occupation of a drover.

drown some worms—go fishing.

drowned valley—a valley invaded by the sea through rising sea level (after the Pleistocene).

drum—information, tip-off: e.g., I'll give you the drum.

drum and mace—(rhyming slang) place.

druthers—preference; choice: e.g., If I had my druthers, I'd go for the pink one. (elision of ' would rather').

Dry—prolonged period of no rain in the tropics.

dry area—an area, vicinity, locality without hotels or liquor shops.

dry as a dead dingo's donger—conditions brought about by drought.

dry bible—a condition of cattle characterised by dryness of the omasum (third stomach).

dry biscuits—biscuits for cheese; crackers.

dry coniferous forests—most temperate forests consist of broad-leaved trees. However, such trees require a lot of water because they lose large amounts of moisture through their leaves. In some areas the soil is just too dry and sandy for broad-leaved trees to grow. In these places, conifers take over, as very little water evaporates through their needles. What keeps the broad-leaved trees from dominating these areas? Fire.

dry farmer—one who farms in dry country.

dry horrors—delirium tremens.

dry open forest—dry forest includes eucalypt woodland and dry open forest.

dry rainforest—distinguished from sub-tropical rainforest by scattered emergent species such as hoop pine, teak and lacebark trees in the upper canopy, and 10 to 30 species in the lower canopy. Buttressing and palms are uncommon or absent. Very large vines are common, and a prickly shrub layer, with species sporting delightful common names such as wait-a-while and lawyer vine, is usually well developed. Ground cover is limited to leaf litter and sometimes a few species of large epiphytes. Dry rainforest is usually found on fertile, eutrophic rock soils, and favours warm, sheltered areas with rainfall around 600mm to 1100mm per year, marked by a dry spell. The transition from various types of rain and eucalypt forests can be quite abrupt and distinct, and in many places in all of the national parks of the Tweed (Wollumbin) Volcano area the features of dry rainforest can be discerned by keen observers.

dry rots—(rhyming slang) trots—diarrhoea.

dry sclerophyll forest—a forest composed primarily of eucalypts, with an understorey of sclerophyllous or xerophytic shrubs. Trees are smaller and more widely spaced than those of a rainforest, allowing more sunlight to reach the ground. The undergrowth is a diffuse assemblage of low shrubs and grasses. The roots of trees in dry sclerophyll forests are shallow, and they spread widely because most of the nutrients they need are in the upper layers of the soil. Shallow roots also allow them to soak up more rainwater. The trees grow in areas of poor soil and little water, yet are so well-adapted that they still transpire about 240 litres of water every day. Transpiration, or loss of water through the pores of the leaves, is reduced by the fact that the leaves hang vertically, avoiding the sun in the hottest part of the day. Most flowers in a dry sclerophyll forest are small, with reduced petals and exposed stamens. This not only helps reduce water loss for the plant, but also assists the animals that feed on it—the nectar is easily reached by birds, insects and mammals. The distinction between rainforest and dry sclerophyll woodland is very ancient. In southern Queensland, open forests similar to the type described here are extensive in the D'Aguilar Range and foothills and on similar geology south of Brisbane but, apart from state forests, are degraded or under increasing pressure for urban and acreage development.

dry sclerophyll woodland—(see: dry sclerophyll forest).

dry season—April to November. During the dry season, the predominant wind direction is south easterly—the south east trade winds. They're moderately cool and very dry in Australia's north-west because they originate from the centre of the desert. This has the effect of pushing the monsoon system north into South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Indonesian throughflow runs from April to October. Water from the western Pacific Ocean flows down through the deeper gaps in the Indonesian Archipelago. Two of the main sites of throughflow are the Lombok Straights, between the islands of Bali and Lombok, and the gap between the island of Timor and Australia. The Leeuwin current that flows down Australia's west coast is a warm tropical current that originates as an offshoot of the main throughflow that passes between Timor and Australia. The throughflow dissipates vast amounts of heat energy from the waters of the western Pacific Ocean into the Indian Ocean. It has been estimated that at it's peak, throughflow transfers enough energy as heat to power a 100 watt electric light bulb on every square metre of the Australian continent. This vast energy transfer has the effect of lowering sea surface temperature to Australia's north, reducing the evaporation of water, which makes the air drier, and so rainfall in the region to the south of the equator is greatly reduced.

dry tropical forests—deciduous woodlands and savannahs that occupy those regions of the tropics in which a rainy season alternates with a dry one. Deciduous trees in the tropics shed their leaves during the protracted dry season. As a consequence, the same tropical forest that appears so lush and green during the rains assumes a sere and lifeless aspect during the months of drought. The closed forests are often replaced by open woodlands, or by savannahs in which the trees are spaced even more widely over a carpet of grass. In some places, the trees are confined to strips along the course of dry streams, and the country resembles pure grassland. If the dry season is long and severe, trees die of dehydration because even in its leafless condition a tree loses water from its twigs and buds. When rainfall is adequate and drainage is good, however, deep soils stay moist through the dry season. This tips the balance in favor of trees, which can then thrive and cast the shade that prevents the development of grasses.

dry tropical savannah—(see: dry tropical forests).

dry tropics—(see: dry tropical forests).

dry turn—a party or function without alcoholic drinks.

dry tussock grasslands—widespread on the level or undulating slopes of the tableland tract. It is found over a wide climatic range, though rainfall is generally low (mainly from erratic summer storms), light winter snow is common and severe winter frosts are experienced. Native grass species associated with dry tussock grassland are wallaby grass, snow grass and kangaroo grass. Used almost exclusively for sheep and cattle grazing. Current threats to these grasslands include invasion by grassy and non-grassy weeds; in particular serrated tussock and African lovegrass.

dry up—be quiet; shut up; a scornful rebuff.

dryandra—any plant of the genus Dryandra of SW Western Australia, notable for its showy flowers.

Dryandra State Forest—dryandra woodland covers a total of 28,000ha. The seventeen separate bush blocks that make up dryandra woodland are among the largest and most valuable for nature conservation in the central western wheatbelt. Trees such as jarrah, wandoo and powderbark are found within Dryandra, as well as isolated areas of marri, mallee and rock she-oak. Thickets of rock she-oak provide habitat for several of Dryandra's rare species, including tammar wallabies and red-tailed phascogales. A plantation of brown mallet predominates in the forest. Dryandra houses 13 species of native ground-dwelling mammals, such as the small, kangaroo-like wyolie, tammar wallaby, numbats, honeyeaters, honey possums and pygmy possums. Dryandra is a remnant of the open eucalypt woodlands which once covered much of the wheatbelt. As these woodlands generally grow on more fertile soils, they have now largely been cleared to create farmland. Land clearing in the wheatbelt began in the late 1890s, and native vegetation is now restricted to reserves, including road sides, rock outcrops and salt lake fringes where land is unsuitable for agriculture.

dryland salinity—areas where soil salinity levels are high enough to affect plant growth; occurs as a result of natural soil-forming processes (primary salinity) or in landscapes disturbed by clearing or other activities that interfere with the water and salinity balance and lead to shallow water tables; hydrological response to the replacement of deep-rooted perennial native vegetation with shallow-rooted annuals which use less water. As a consequence, more rainfall enters the ground water, causing water tables to rise; where these rise to within 1m to 2m of the soil surface, salinisation occurs as a result of evapo-transpiration and direct evaporation, resulting in both stream and soil salinity.

dubbo—1. idiot; fool; simpleton; imbecile. 2. (cap.) a town in New South Wales.

duchess—1. a dressing-table with a pivoting mirror. 2. a sideboard.

duchess potatoes—mashed potatoes mixed with egg, baked or fried, and served as small cakes.

duchess set—a cover or a set of covers for a dressing-table.

duck's breakfast—a drink of water and a wash (from WWI).

duck's disease—a description of a person's physical build, indicating that his legs are too short and his buttocks are too near the ground.

duck-shove—evade responsibilities.

duck-shoving—manipulative or unfair methods in order to attain a favourable or advantageous position.

duckbill—(see: platypus).

ducks/duck's-egg—(cricket) the score of a batsman dismissed for nought.

ducks and geese—(rhyming slang) police.

ducky/duckie—1. delightful; wonderful; excellent. 2. term of endearment such as: dear, darling.

Duduroa—an Aboriginal people of the Chiltern area in South Australia. They were a sub-clan of the Goulbum Valley people, the Pangarang. Mount Pilot was important to the Duduora, Pangarang, Quat Quatta and Minjambutta clans as a spiritual and ceremonial site. Springs located in the rock of the Mount Pilot lookout were an essential water source to these clans.

duffer—part of a large family of words that were originally very negative but became softer and less pejorative over time. In the 18th century duffing was “passing off a worthless article as valuable”. From this it's clear that a duffer was a criminal of sorts – specifically one who sold trashy goods. (The only suggestion as to its origin is that it was thieves' slang – more than this is not known.) At any rate, the result was that duff goods were goods that were not what they appeared to be, or were not the real thing, or where not up to scratch. In 19th century Australia a cattle thief was not a rustler (that's an American expression) but a cattle duffer. From all this came a further spin: a person who was a bit useless, without practical ability, inefficient or incapable was called a duffer (not the real thing, you see – not quite up to scratch). By the mid 20th century this had been softened further into silly duffer (and often used affectionately).

duffing—the colonial term for stealing.

dugong—a marine mammal, Dugong dugon, of Asian and Australasian seas and coasts. The major surviving world population is found in Australian waters from the west coast of WA along the northern coast to Moreton Bay, Qld. It spends most of its time eating seagrass in calm, shallow water and has an excellent sense of hearing and sight. It is highly social, communicating to others in groups of up to 100 by whistles and chirps.

dull as dishwater—extremely boring.

dumb Dora—stupid, dumb, silly woman.

dummy—a baby's pacifier.

dummy spit—a sudden display of temper, especially over something trifling; a tantrum.

dumosa malleeEucalyptus dumosa, a mallee, to 8m tall, with dull green foliage. Adul leaves are lanceolate, petiolate, slightly asymmetric, to 6.5cm x 14mm, alternate, dull-green; oils glands numerous. Buds are more or less ovoid, to 10mm x 5mm, in clusters of 7 on a broad peduncle. Fruits are cup-shaped, to 9mm x 8mm, smooth, sometimes ridged, valves 4, more or less at rim level. Koori uses included boomerangs fashioned from the wood; some parts of the roots were crushed for food and other sections were drained for drinking water. Sugary cases covering leaf-sucking insects were gathered from the leaves and were eaten as a sweet food. Other mallee eucalypts may have been used in this way.

dumper—1. a strong wave in the surf. 2. a tip-truck.

dumpie/dumpy—garbage collector; garbo.

Dunbogan Beach—one of two long beaches within the Crowdy Bay National Park. Dunbogan is in the Camden Haven area of the mid-north coast of New South Wales, situated approximately half-way between Sydney and the Queensland border.

dune systems—the Australian Arid Zone contains the most spectacular and largest longitudinal dune systems in the world. The first dune systems were created during arid and windy glacials around 900,000 years ago in the Lake Amadeus region in Central Australia. Because these cycles of glacial and interglacial were repeated, it is very difficult to determine the exact age of sand dune deserts. Core samples in the Simpson Desert taken by the University of Wollongong suggest it is only around 20,000 years old. Present theory suggests most of the current dune systems in Australia were formed by a dominating subtropical, anti-cyclonic air system which has prevailed over the Australian continent for the past 20 to 30,000 years, continually picking up dust and sand from depot centers and depositing it as vast longitudinal dunes, some over 100km in length. This geological process is akin to a living, breathing organism. Lake Eyre becomes the heart. The great rivers flood, carrying silt down into this vast holding pan, where it is picked up and carried by the wind into the Simpson Desert. Likewise, the Macdonnell Ranges, once the size of the Rockies have eroded to form the sands of the Red Centre.

dung funnel—exhaust pipe.

dung-hill—foul, vile, terrible, unpleasant place or person.

dunger—1. toilet. 2. awful; terrible; unpleasant.

dungy—awful; terrible; vile; unpleasant.

dunnart—any of the narrow-footed marsupial or 'pouched' mice of the genus Sminthopsis of all Australian states.

dunny—toilet, especially an outside one; an outhouse. The word comes from British dialect 'dunnekin', meaning 'dung-house'.

dunny budgie—a blowfly (blowie)—because blowflies hang about a toilet, especially an outside toilet. They are also very big (i.e. the size of a budgie).

dunnyman—one employed to empty lavatory cans/tins, where there is no sewer connected.

Durak, Patrick—born in County Clare, Ireland, emigrated to New South Wales in 1853, made his fortune on the Ovens River diggings in Victoria, and in 1868 established a property on a tributary of Coopers Creek in western Queensland. He was endlessly energetic and quickly established himself as one of the richest and most successful cattle owners in the area. In the early 1880s, after hearing good reports of the Kimberley country, he sent his brother Michael to inspect land on the Ord River. Michael's report was favourable and Durack organised the droving of 7250 breeding cattle and 200 horses to the region. The 3000-mile, 3-year-long trek of cattle from Queensland to stock the Argyle and Ivanhoe stations was, at the time, the longest ever attempted in Australia.

Durras Lake—a shallow, branching lake on the south coast of New South Wales. Fresh water input is low, and the salinity levels at the mouths of existing tributary creeks high. The Durras Lake catchment overlaps areas of both the Murramurang National Park and the State Forest. Located in the Shoalhaven, 275km south of Sydney.

durry—a hand-rolled cigarette. Possibly derived from Bull Durham, a popular brand of loose tobacco.

dusky hopping mouseNotomys fuscus, listed as "presumed extinct" on the schedules of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act. Not seen in New South Wales since the mid-nineteenth century, the species was found on 30 September 2003 in Sturt National Park, north of the Broken Hill area. Researchers have captured seven of the tiny animals, which live in burrows on sand dunes. It has large hind feet, large ears, a large throat pouch and a long tail which averages 14cm. Little is known of its breeding habits or ecological requirements.

dusky moorhenGallinula tenebrosa, a small, black bird with a red frontal face shield and a yellow-tipped beak. The body is uniformly dark. The call is a piercing krick, krick! Widespread distribution in fresh water in the eastern third of the continent and the south-west corner. The dusky moorhen cannot fly and it's feet are slightly webbed, so it can't swim too fast. It is a generally shy bird and doesn't usually attack but when trespassers come, it defends its nest.

dust bin—trash can; garbage can.

dust off—a fight, brawl, commotion.

dust-up—a fight, brawl, commotion.

dusted—1. beaten; thrashed; bashed; soundly defeated. 2. killed.

dusting—a beating, bashing or sound thrashing.

dustman—garbage man.

Dutch auction—sale in which the price is reduced until a buyer is found.

Dutch courage—courage, bravado, induced by alcohol.

Dutch East India Company—the world’s largest commercial enterprise, dominating trade in the East Indies for two hundred years. The company was established in 1602, when the newly formed Dutch Republic granted it a monopoly on trade and navigation east of the Cape of Good Hope. The company exerted imperialistic power through the transportation of political prisoners and convicts to the outer colonies of the company’s realm. The Dutch East India Company was also authorised to establish and govern colonies in the new world. Ships sometimes sighted the Australian coast on their way to Java, and company ships made voyages of discovery to Australia and New Zealand during the 17th century. Captain Willem Janzsoon in the ship Duyfken made the first European landing in Australia at Cape York on the north-east Australian coast in 1606.

Dutch wife—a mattress.

Dutchman's pipeAristolochia elegans, an exotic and once-popular garden plant, now a bushland weed. Dutchman's pipe attracts the Richmond birdwing butterflies to lay eggs on it, but poisons the hatchling caterpillars that feed on its leaves. These butterflies are known to lay their eggs on the foliage of Dutchman’s pipe in preference to their native food plant, the birdwing vine, where the two occur together.

dux—the top pupil in a class or in a school.

Duyfken—(Little Dove) a small ship owned by the Dutch East India Company. She was employed as a scout and pathfinder when the Dutch broke into the hugely profitable spice trade from the East Indies. In 1606, under the command of Willem Janszoon, the ship and her crew sailed from the Indonesian island of Banda in search of gold and trade opportunities on the island of Nova Guinea. Captain Janszoon was the first European in history to map and record Australia and, as such, Duyfken's voyage marks the beginning of Australia's recorded history. In the Gulf of Carpentaria he sailed through the entrance of what is now the Pennefather River on the western side of Cape York, the landing site just 30km north of the modern town of Weipa. By going ashore Captain Janszoon became the first recorded white man to set foot on Australian soil and in Queensland. (Cape Keer-Weer, south of Weipa, is the first coastal feature to be named by a European.)

Dyirbal—an Aboriginal people of northern Queensland.

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