About ten years ago when I started playing mmo’s (massively multiplayer online [games]) I chose the name ‘Meeka’ for my second character on Final Fantasy XI because I liked the sound of it. I had been pouring over maps of Australia and had discovered a place a place in Western Australia called Meekathara. Being lazy I shortened it to Meeka and I have been using it ever since, never guessing that it was a real name!
Meekathara is an aboriginal name meaning ‘place of little water’ – rather appropriate for Western Australia. Apparently the town has been through a succession of small gold rushes which is probably the only reason it survived with a rainfall counted in the low double digits – 7.9 – 20 inches for the whole year! So there is not a great deal of significance to Meekathara but I really fell in love with the sound of that name.
It seems I have not been alone in my love of indigenous place names. For most of our short history white Australians have either ignored the indigenous peoples who were here before us or we have treated them as less than human. Yet despite this, indigenous place names have crept into our vocabulary and have stayed there.
When I arrived in Australia at the age of four, my parents and I spent our first year in New South Wales, living in an inland town by the name of Wagga Wagga. Wagga Wagga means ‘place of many crows’. We boarded with an Australian family whose house was a stone’s throw away from the Murrumbidgee river which means ‘big water’. After moving from NSW to Victoria we settled in Melbourne and eventually moved to a suburb called Eaglemont, very european, but the house I grew up in was called ‘Awaba’ which comes from the indigenous word for ‘a flat place’. Now this was a little strange as the word itself comes from NSW and the house is in Victoria. Stranger still, the house is on top of quite a steep hill in a suburb that is nothing but hills. We used to speculate that the man who built the house must have originally come from NSW or have some connection to it.
Right now I live in an outer suburb of Melbourne called Warrandyte [more gold rush history] which is bisected by the river Yarra. Apparently the man who named the river, John Helder Wedge, was with two aboriginal trackers at the time and they called out ‘Yarra Yarra’ when they saw the waterfall but Wedge thought they were talking about the river so that was what he named it. Bit of mistaken identity there that was very common at the time. The real name of the river was Birrarung (something like ‘endless flow’) but the name Yarra stuck. The township of Warrandyte is itself an indigenous word linked to a dreamtime myth :
“In Australian Aboriginal mythology (see dreamtime), a Wurundjeri dreamtime story tells of a great eagle; “the all powerful, ever watchful creator of the world” named Bunjil, who “once gazed down upon his people from the star Altair and saw their wrong doing. Awaiting their return, with a mighty crash of thunder, he hurled down a star to destroy them”. Where the star struck created a gorge in which much of the town today is located. Bunjil’s people remembered the spot, and referred to it as Warrandyte speculated to mean “that which is thrown”.”
I’m sure that if I googled Victorian place names I would find hundreds of place names that owe their origin to the people we displaced. And dispossessed. I’m just glad that something of that rich heritage has survived.
But if my lovely made up name is real then where did it come from? And what does it mean? My thanks again to wiki for the following definition :
“me(e)-ka\ as a girl’s name is a variant of Dominique (French, Latin) and Mika (Japanese), and the meaning of Meeka is “lord; beautiful aroma; beautiful increase”.”
When I read this I just had to smile. Not at the meaning, although that is rather nice but rather at its provenance. French and Japanese are my two favourite languages and, not surprisingly, when I was a teacher back at the dawn of time, those were the languages I taught! So despite my disappointment at not being the creator of the name ‘Meeka’ I am more than happy to remain connected with it.
Perhaps I should just change my name to Meeka by deed poll – Meeka Flory has a nice ring to it. I am tempted as I’ve never liked my given name of ‘Andrea’. It sounds nice in Hungarian – On-drey-oh. It even sounds nice in Italian – Ahn-drey-ah. In aussie English though – Ann- dree-ah just sounds… nasal.
Oh well, I am who I am and I guess that includes the name but if anyone wants to call me ‘Meeka’ or ‘Meeks’ I’ll smile and say ‘You rang?’