Tumbulgum – Can You Even Say It?

The first time I drove past a sign to Tumbulgum, I reckon I did what any non-local would do – I mispronounced it. Yep – I got it totally wrong because it isn’t how it seems.

There are a lot of places down here in Australia with names you can’t pronounce. The first time I saw the name ‘Indooroopilly’, I almost packed my bags and moved back to New South Wales, from whence I’d just come.

How was I going to live in a state where I couldn’t even say the name of neighbouring towns? I mean, really?

But like everything, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.

Let me introduce you to some of our Aussie slang.

We have a habit of shortening anything that seems like an effort to say.

  • Ambulance Driver = Ambo
  • Tea Break = Smoko
  • Garbage Collection Driver = Garbo
  • Avocado = Avo

And just when you think you’ve got this – we change the ending.

  • Motor-bike Rider = Biko Bikie
  • Brick-layer = Bricko Brickie
  • Fire-fighter = Firo Firie
  • Barbecue = Barbie

Then there’s Maccas = McDonalds – of the fast food variety.

And when I lived out in Central Queensland, the town of Woorabinda was simply Woori.

Mullumbimby is shortened to Mullum.

Well, that one was easy.

So you see, there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to sorting out our language. All you need to know is: if it can be shortened – it will be shortened.

And that goes for people’s names as well. Oh, unless you have red hair – then you’ll be called Blue.

Wait, is that even politically correct anymore? Probably not – but it was certainly the case when I was young.

Let’s get back to those place names.

As it turns out, Indooroopilly hasn’t been shortened – as far as I know – but it is shortened in the way you say it. Instead of sounding out all the oo’s, you kind of just leave them out altogether. So it ends up sounding like ‘Indrupilly’ (using the short vowel -u- sound like hum).

And now, let’s get back to Tumbulgum. Nope – it isn’t like Tumbul-gum. It’s more like Tm-bol-gm – you kind of run the t and m and the g and m together. And the first u becomes an o sound – as in r-o-c-k

Actually, it doesn’t matter how you pronounce Tumbulgum, as long as you go there. It is a spectacularly beautiful little place.

That’s Mt Warning (Wollumbin) in the background. Rumour has it that Mt Warning is the first place in Australia the sun shines on every day.

Tumbulgum is where the Rous River meets the Tweed River.

And since my house is just a short drive from Mt Warning and Tumbulgum, I guess you can see why I love living in Murwillumbah.

If you are up for a real challenge – visit our neighbour, New Zealand. And especially the town of Whakatane (/fɑːkɑːˈtɑːnə/).

I’ll say no more…..

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Owner and Administrator of website: maureendurney.com

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Love our place names. We’ll have to write more about Oz at the moment as we need tourists to stop thinking all of the country has been on fire or flooded. Great post.

    1. Absolutely, Di! We’ve still got a lot of beautiful places to see. My message to the world is: it doesn’t matter if you can say the names or not – just get on over here! 🙂

  2. You’ve lost me completely. Maureen! 🙂

    1. I spent a few weeks in New Zealand a couple of years ago and some of their names are a complete mystery. Even when I asked locals, I had to practice saying it over and over because there was no logical way of working it out. But, they probably say the same about some of our names. I wonder why the most beautiful places have the strangest names? 🙂

I’ll get back to you as soon as I finish my coffee...

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