Aussie lingo: Willy-willy

By Frank Povah 7 November 2013
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We welcome the phrase ‘willy-willy’ to fair-dinkum Frank’s dictionary of Aussie jargon.

WE’RE BECOMING EVER MORE distant from the land that nurtures us. Many Australians came to know the bush intimately when the Great Depression put husbands, uncles and brothers on the wallaby in a desperate bid to support families. Now those links with the land have gone – usually only remembered at election time when the merest mention of “The Bush” and its “Battlers” turns politicians into dewy-eyed sentimentalists – and with them, it seems, goes our vocabulary. Nowhere is the loss more evident than in the evening news. No more do we hear: “A willy-willy has flattened Woop Woop West.” Today, even nature has become urbanised and follows a tv script.

The willy-willy is now a “mini tor­nado” following “a path of destruc­tion”. What sort of pheno­menon is that? Granted, there are impish little willy-willys that skip across suburban car parks, lifting skirts and hair and filling eyes with grit, but out there, out in the bush of my youth and life’s autumn mem­ories, there are mon­sters that rip across the ancient plains, snap­ping trees and relo­cating sandhills as the clever­man inside them shrieks and dances in fiendish glee. They flatten towns. Mini tornadoes merely put the frighteners on tv journalists.

Source: Australian Geographic Issue 81 (Jan – Mar 2006)