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Who is Mathilda of Oz? Options
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 8:41:48 AM

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Ever since I saw the movie "On the Beach", forty some years ago, the chorus of the song Waltzing Mathilda has been one of those musical phrases that periodically returns to run through my mind. Finally the other day, after singing it, again, through about half my morning run, I looked up the lyrics.

Lyrics to Waltzing Matilda :
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong
Up got the swaggie and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me

Down came the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
Up came the troopers One Two Three
Who's the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker-bag?
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
Who's the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker-bag?
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me.

Up got the swaggie and jumped into the billabong
You'll never catch me alive said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me
Lyrics Mania

It took a bit of doing to even begin to comprehend this song but after decoding the vernacular:
swagman, wandering, itinerant worker of rural Australia who carried a swag.
swag, the bedroll with bivouac supplies usually tied at both ends and carried diagonally across the back.
billabong, a lake formed by a river that had changed course.
jumpjack, a sheep
squatter, the owner of a large piece of land (thousands of acres)
tucker bag, old flour or sugar bag used to carry food.
billy, a makeshift teapot.
troopers, mounted police.

I found the definition of billabong first, and thought for a short bit that billy was short for billabong, and thought this was one impressive swaggie who could boil a lake. Squatter didn't make sense to me at first as its modern usage here carries a different connotation. Once I got these straight, the song made sense, and even why it might be considered Australia's unofficial national anthem.
But who the hell is Mathilda???Brick wall

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
excaelis
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 9:08:36 AM

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According to TFD ' Matilda ' is another slang word for a ' swag ', apparently. Weirdly synchronicitous that you should post this, Epi, because I was trying to remember the words to this at work on Thursday ( I sing a lot at work - don't ask...). Thanks.

Sanity is not statistical
almostfreebird
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 9:10:14 AM

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Mathilda is a blanket named Mathilda, which is the only thing that a poor wanderer can embrace.



Hope2
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:41:54 AM

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Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. T. S. Eliot
Hope2
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:45:23 AM

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"Waltzing Matilda" is Australia's most widely known bush ballad. A country folk song, the song has been referred to as "the unofficial national anthem of Australia".[1]
The title is Australian slang for travelling by foot with one's goods (waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz) in a "Matilda" (bag) slung over one's back.[2] The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or "swagman", making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep's owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft, the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, after which his ghost haunts the site.

(Swag = bag or pack)

Apparently he couldn't swim!


Is Wiki right, thou from down under?

Synchronicitous, Ex?

Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. T. S. Eliot
Hope2
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:14:08 AM

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Darn. Now you have me singing it.

Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. T. S. Eliot
tootsie
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:22:22 AM

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and me, dammit!

(oops sorry, I mean damnit)





I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost. Winnie-the-Pooh
ezfreemann
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:56:17 AM

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r u kidding about the "damnit" thing? cuz it's really "dammit".

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dammit

a man with a watch knows what time it is....a man with two watches is never sure....
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:11:28 PM

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Hope2 wrote:
Apparently he couldn't swim!


I heard that he could swim just fine but, if you're gonna steal this guy's dinner, you better be able to swim faster than he can.


Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
almostfreebird
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:23:12 PM

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When I see the word "oz",

I always think of "The Wizard of Oz".





tootsie
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:28:46 PM

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hehehe

me too, when I espied this thread

then I started to wrack my thick brains as to which character was called Mathilda........

:D



I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost. Winnie-the-Pooh
tootsie
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:39:21 PM

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[quote=ezfreemann]r u kidding about the "damnit" thing? cuz it's really "dammit".

Hi ezfreemann!! damn is how we spell it in BE. AE is something else. Wish I could post you the thread about dilemma/dilemna - you'd love it.




I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost. Winnie-the-Pooh
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 1:16:04 PM

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Tootsie and ezfreeman, here's the dilemma thread:

http://forum.thefreedictionary.com/postst326_Spelling-dilemna.aspx


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 2:41:38 PM

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Strange, now you come to mention it.

I write:
Damn
g'damn
dammit


(when I'm in the mood for such language)


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
ezfreemann
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 2:44:49 PM

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thanks for the link! i have some catching up to do.

a man with a watch knows what time it is....a man with two watches is never sure....
Hope2
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 6:04:50 PM

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Oh, Epi. That looks real!

Dr. Mehmet Oz? That's who I thought of first.

G'day, eh!

Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. T. S. Eliot
Tovarish
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 8:29:46 PM

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Catchy tune isnt it?

Your right a 'Matilda' is a bed roll or swag, it got very lonely out along the track.

Swagman/men or Swaggies, were itinerant workers or just loners.

Billabong is usually an area of water cut off from a river when the water levels drop.

Jumbuck is of course a sheep.

'Squatter' is a land owner or grazier, as oppposed to a farmer who digs up the ground to crops, he/she is called a 'Cocky'

'Oz' Ozzie is the sound of Aussie.
excaelis
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:08:50 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:
Hope2 wrote:
Apparently he couldn't swim!


I heard that he could swim just fine but, if you're gonna steal this guy's dinner, you better be able to swim faster than he can.


The moral being, I suppose, when in the bush always keep provisions on hand.

Sanity is not statistical
Tovarish
Posted: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:36:33 PM

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You would attempt to walk on water if this bloke was any where around.
Romany
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 12:24:46 AM
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Tov -

Have you ever HEARD anyone referring to their swag as their 'mathilda'? Many, many years ago I (the year I finished school) I did a lot of research on the old bush poets in the days when The Bulletin used to be a vehicle for many of them. I talked to dozens and dozens of old guys who really had humped the bluey all over Oz back in the day and during the Depression and such. Not once, ever, did any of them ever talk about their 'Mathilda' or even, when questioned, say they had ever heard any of the old fellers using their phrase.

I mean, we all accept that's what it means, and we tell people who don't know, that that's what it means...but what if the bloke who wrote the wong was the only bloke who ever used that term? Just like a certain kid might give their blankie its own personal name? I reckon that would be cause for the songwriter to go grinning to his grave.

ps - I just realised:- for anyone who might be raising an eyebrow over the phrase 'humping their bluey' (and imagining guys doing it all across The Wide Brown Land) it means - literally - 'carrying your swag' and so, by extension, camping out in the bush as the itinerants and seasonal workers used to do before the ute (utility truck) was invented.
Tovarish
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 1:33:33 AM

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No never ever heard of the usage of a Matilda, apart from knowing what it means in this particular song.

Humping your bluey, always.

Humping must have had a different meaning then, as smutty minds are not a new invention.

As I said earlier, it must have got very lonely along the track, reminds me of the Tom Hanks movie & Wilson.
Ray41
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 7:57:25 AM

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billabong
An originally aboriginal word for a section of still water adjacent to a river, cut off by a change in the watercourse, cf. an oxbow lake. In the Australian outback, a billabong generally retains water longer than the watercourse itself, so it may be the only water for miles around.

billy
A tin can, maybe two litres (four pints) in capacity, usually with a wire handle attached to the top rim, in which 'swaggies' (and contemporary Australian campers) boil water to make tea (and to kill the beasties in the water they've taken out of the billabong).

coolibah tree (also coolabah)
A particular kind of eucalyptus that grows beside billabongs.
More specifically, a friend tells me that it's eucalyptus microtheca, a small to medium-sized tree to 20m, widespread in arid and semi-arid areas near watercourses and seasonally inundated areas in open woodlands, found in all states except Victoria and Tasmania.

jumbuck
A sheep.

The Macquarie Dictionary suggests that the term is an Aboriginal corruption of 'jump up'. A correspondent, Leslie (Lee) Harvey advises me that the term derives from 'jombok'. "Jomboks are those big, white, fluffy clouds that typically drift across the inland Australian skies in late summer and Autumn. When the aboriginals first saw sheep they were reminded of jomboks and they just changed one letter to avoid confusion in their spoken language. I also think the first European translators misspelled the word jumbuck".


squatter
As Australia was settled, there was of course little or no authority and bureaucracy in place. People 'squatted' on patches of land, grazed their animals, grew their crops and built their houses and fences. In due course, as authority arrived, it generally accepted the claims of whoever was in apparent possession of the land (aboriginals had been no match for armed white men, and anyway were largely nomadic across reasonably large areas). Particularly in good quality grazing country, squatters quickly became relatively very well off, hence the term 'squattocracy' which blends 'squatter' with 'aristocracy'. The constabulary tended to work with them to maintain law and order. To non-land-owners, squatters were an object of resentment.

swagman
A gentleman of the road, an itinerant roaming country roads, a drifter, a tramp, a hobo. Carried his few belongings slung in a cloth, which was called by a wide variety of names, including 'swag', 'shiralee' and 'bluey'. Given the large number of names for them, they must have been a pretty common sight.

troopers
A cavalry soldier, or perhaps a mounted militia-man or policeman. To a swaggie, what was the difference??

tucker-bag
A bag to keep tucker in. Tucker is grub, victuals/vittles, or food.

waltzing matilda

Matilda was a mock-romantic word for a swag, and to waltz matilda was to hit the road with a swag on your back. Very few non-Australians seem to understand this, and hence regard the song as gibberish or cute, something like 'Jabberwocky' set to music. "'Twas brillig and the slithy toves ..." indeed.

The term is thought to come from a German expression. Auf die Walz gehen means to take to the road (as of apprentices in the Middle Ages, who were required by their Master to visit other Masters and report back, before they could secure their release. In some trades, at least in some parts of Germany and I believe Denmark, they still do). The dance, anglicised as 'waltz', came several centuries later). Matilda is a girl's name, applied to one's bed-roll. As a correspondent points out, this is a bit of a come-down for a name that originated as the Teutonic Mathilde - 'Mighty in Battle'.


The story was written at Dagworth Station in Queensland and the connection between 'Matilda and Mathilde' is basically explained in this article.

Over dinner at the station, Paterson first heard the expression 'waltzing matilda'. Soon afterwards, Bob Macpherson took Paterson to Combo Waterhole nearby, where they stumbled across the skin of a newly killed sheep.

Another formative influence may have been a recent incident on the property, that must have become known to Paterson. This was the period during which unionisation emerged in Australia, and the sheep-shearers were fighting the graziers for better wages and conditions. On 1 September 1894, a mere four months earlier, shearers had set the Dagworth woolshed ablaze, cremating a hundred sheep. Macpherson and three police troopers had pursued them. One had shot himself (out of remorse at killing sheep?? More likely, to avoid capture). The man's name was Hoffmeister.

So it's to be presumed that Paterson linked a dead sheep at the billabong, presumably killed by a swagman, with some details from the pursuit and presumed defiance of a shearer with a German name.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is the original hand written version by A. B. (Banjo) Paterson



While I live I grow.
Tovarish
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 8:06:46 AM

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Well researched Ray, Congrats!
Romany
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 8:29:53 AM
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Yes, i found that copy of the primary text really exciting Ray!

Also, finally, I feel a little vindicated: having never met anyone who was independently familiar with the Mathilda-as-swag story (i.e. apart from the song and the explanation of it) this is something that has bugged me for years. Every time I met up with an old-timer - even just sitting on a park bench or something - I used to ask about it.

But now it seems entirely feasible to me: if Banjo heard the expression in one particular location used by one particular family or community, then it could merely have been a local expression and that would explain why not one of the old bushwhackers had ever heard of it; or why records of the time make no independant mention of it or why it's never cropped up in any other traditional songs of poetry from that era.

Hurray! Thanks, Ray, a long, long puzzle finally explained.
Epiphileon
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 8:53:39 AM

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Thanks everyone for the input, and especially thanks to Ray for leaving no question at all concerning the song.

Question authority. How do you know, that you know, what you know?
IMcRout
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 8:58:53 AM

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Very informative. Thank you, Ray.

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
Ray41
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 9:16:56 AM

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Aw shucks, twas nothing really. I just love our Aussie writers and poets, and the origins of 'Matilda' I learnt back in primary school. That was a looong time ago, but I first had to find it on the net so as to post it.
I was digging through my 'stored books' recently and found my copy of 'Poor Fellow My Country' by Xavier Herbert.Only 1462 pages in small font, and, I am up to page 540. I am enjoying it as much as the first time I read it. It captures the spirit of northern Australia in the late 1930s, early 1940s. He also wrote 'Capricornia' and a few others.
Herbert actually lived in the area he writes about so it is a great record of the cattle stations and the way the aborigines were treated at that time.
I love my sunburnt country.Dancing

While I live I grow.
Romany
Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2012 11:41:40 AM
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My favourite Ozbook is Ruth Parks 'Poor Man's Orange' - captures the urban spirit indelibly.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 2:11:43 AM

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Since we're looking at German as a possible source (even if it was just one family of sheep-shearers, of German descent), one could consider "Walzen mein Tiltions"
- "taking to the road with the memories I have deliberately forgotten."

This also fits with the fact that "Tiltions" also means "a crossing out" (of a word or words), and the original manuscript shows this phrase replaces
one which was crossed out! - Now you can't ask for a more convincing argument than that can you?

Amazing what you can do with "Google Translate" and a good imagination.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Viking88
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 2:54:36 AM

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swagman
A gentleman of the road, an itinerant roaming country roads, a drifter, a tramp, a hobo. Carried his few belongings slung in a cloth, which was called by a wide variety of names, including 'swag', 'shiralee' and 'bluey'. Given the large number of names for them, they must have been a pretty common sight.

G;day to yers all, I was born in 1936 and the great depression was still evident in Oz and my parents lived through the entire period. I was told by them, when I was older of course, that thousands of men, previously of some means, such as those highly ranked in business, lawyers, doctors etc. were compelled to join the ranks of unemployed humping their blueys around the country. TFD(humping= to carry, particularily on the back).

Things sure were tough, let us hope a similar situation dosen't occur again, although events of recent years would indicate there is a real possability of that.

It took only a couple of generations for us to forget the lessons that should have been learnt at that time, and now many people are so far in debt that even a minor downturn in the economy causes them hardsnip.

Lets hope the world keeps swingin' Cheers.

Edit. I am amazed that so many aare interested in Oz.

"We are all verbs as well as nouns; jazz is that sphere where being and doing are synonymous". Michael Steinman.
IMcRout
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 3:44:42 AM

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@viking: We just love Matilda!

@drag0n: You are obviously mistaking 'mein Tiltions' (wherever you may have got that from)
with Matt Tilton.

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
almostfreebird
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 4:46:16 AM

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I know this Mathilda too.



http://the-professional-v133866


excaelis
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 5:44:30 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:
Hope2 wrote:
Apparently he couldn't swim!


I heard that he could swim just fine but, if you're gonna steal this guy's dinner, you better be able to swim faster than he can.

Or be Armed to the teeth....( sorry, I couldn't resist one more bite at that cherry !)




Sanity is not statistical
Hope2
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 5:46:43 PM

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Quote Ex - "Or be Armed to the teeth...."

Applause Applause Applause

Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. T. S. Eliot
Viking88
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 7:14:34 PM

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Applause Good one, Hope2 Applause

"We are all verbs as well as nouns; jazz is that sphere where being and doing are synonymous". Michael Steinman.
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