The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia
By James Dawson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2009
Online Publication Date:September 2010
Original Publication Year:1881
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511706127.016
Subjects: Physical anthropology , Historical Linguistics
Until a child is able to walk it is not distinguished by any individual name, and is called by the general term ‘puupuup.’ When it learns to walk, the father gives it a name. If the father is dead, the grandfather confers the name ; and, failing him, the mother or nearest relative does so. The first child of either sex is called after its father, and the second, if a daughter, after its mother. If requested, the father will name his other children after friends, who call them ‘laing,’ meaning ‘namesake,’ and who are ever afterwards kind to them. In return, they address their godfathers by the same term. When children are not thus called after a friend, their names are taken from something in the neighbourhood, such as a swamp, rivulet, waterhole, hill, or animal; or from some peculiarity in the child or in its parents. Girls are sometimes named after flowers.
The name does not necessarily adhere to the individual during life. People sometimes exchange names as a mark of friendship. But as this would lead to confusion if it were done privately, it takes place only at one of the great meetings of the tribes, when the parties are full-grown, in order that every person may be informed of it, and may know that the chiefs and the parents give their consent, without which the exchange would not be permitted. The ceremony commences by the friends of each of the persons ranging themselves in opposite lines, with the principals in the centre facing each other, with firebrands in their hands.