William Steed writes:

The recent flooding around southern NSW and northern Victoria has brought a few of Australia’s more interesting place names into the news. Some of them are interesting just for being a bit longer than the normal place name, such as Tallygaroopna. Digging a little further, a number of unusual place names pop out, mostly from local indigenous languages – Boomahnoomoonah, Koonoomoo, Numurkah, and more.

That said, some of them not only look unusual, but are pronounced in an unusual way. Take Wunghnu, for example. Before you click on the link or read on, take a moment to guess (if you don’t already know) how to say it. When I came across the name Wunghnu the other day, I was stumped on how to pronounce it. I also stumbled across Waaia. At least with that one, I could make a guess, but I turned out to be quite wrong!

It turns out Wunghnu is pronounced something like “one ewe” (/ˈwʌn.juː/ for those who can read phonological transcriptions). It makes me wonder where that came from. Where did that “gh” come in from? As for Waaia, Wikipedia tells me it’s pronounced /ˈweɪaɪ/(“way eye”), which doesn’t follow any of English’s spelling-pronunciation conventions.

I’ve found some other placenames from northern Victoria, but I’m afraid to pronounce them: Mywee, Youarang, Yielima, Drumanure, Pelluebla, Bearii, Youanmite. Are there any readers familiar with the area who can enlighten us? Any reliable answers will help update Wikipedia – the list here isn’t nearly representative! Feel free to add other oddly pronounced names from Australia, like Canowindra, Goondiwindi, and the like.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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