Aussie lingo: coo-ee

By AG Staff 7 November 2013
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Shout out a “coo-ee” just about anywhere and you’ll get a response. Frank Povah tells us the origin of this classic call.

IT WAS ONCE CLAIMED that sticking your head in the engine room of a ship of any nationality and yelling “Jock” would get a response. Whether or not this is true today I wouldn’t be game to say, but I’ll bet you London to a brick that if you let a decent “coo-ee” rip at a sporting event anywhere in the world, you’d get at least one reply.

Among the first Aboriginal words taken into English by the First Fleeters, it comes from the Dharug word “guu-wii”, literally “come here”, but the Europeans noted early in the piece that the Dharug used it as a shrill call to communicate over long distances.

If, like me, you’ve ever been out of Australia for a few years and lucky enough to come home by ship, you’ll know that before you even see the coast, our old country gives off an aroma you can almost touch – it says “Australia” in a way that brings you to tears. And when you’re in some foreign country up to your armpits in snow, a good “coo-ee” does the same thing.

It’s as Australian as the heady smell of gumleaf smoke and burnt snags on a barbie.

Australian Geographic Issue 85 (Jan – Mar 2007)

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