Sunday, April 03, 2005

What's "up" with WA town names?

Visitors to Western Australia are often struck by the number of place names ending in “up” such as Cardup, Wonnerup, Burekup, Yallingup and Karrinyup.

The “up” in these names comes from the Aboriginal Noongar language but there is some dissension as to whether it means place of, water place or meeting place and most likely it is a combination of all three translations.

All of these towns were originally spelt with a double “p” – so Cardupp, Wonnerupp, Burekupp, Yallingupp and Karinyupp.

The double “p” spelling in the original Western Australian Government gazettal of these names was used because the Lands and Surveys Department had adopted a system for spelling Aboriginal names
developed by the Royal Geographical Society. The RGS system had a rule that vowels are pronounced as in Italian and consonants as in English.

This would have meant that names ending in "up" should have been pronounced as "oop", because the Italian "u" was a long "u", as in flute. These Aboriginal names were meant to be pronounced as "up", and the Department asked the RGS for a rule to assist in correct pronunciation.

The RGS solution was that doubling the following consonant shortened the preceding vowel, and this meant the "upp" ending ensured the "up" pronunciation. However, this particular rule was rescinded in 1915 for south west towns with the suffix "up", as the Australian way of
pronouncing the letter "u" was almost always short, and rarely the Italian "oo" – something you always wanted to know!