Last night on SBS was the season final of Top Gear, one of my favourite shows. Ordinarily Top Gear and linguistics don’t mix particularly well, but last night’s installment had no less than two linguistically interesting bits, both in the same segment.

The segment in question was the review of a couple of cars, both Vauxhalls1. Both these Vauxhalls are Australian designs, I suppose, and have been given very Australian names. The first is named ‘Bathurst’, which is a central NSW town where one the only famous race in the V8 Supercar calendar, the Bathurst 1000, takes place. Here’s how Top Gear’s Richard Hammond describes Bathurst:

Basically it’s a place where Holden and Ford fans go to have a massive fist fight, and then in the interval, when the paramedics go in, sometimes a car race breaks out.

The bit related to linguistics (very loosely, and not very interestingly) is that Hammond pronounces it [‘ba:θɜst] as opposed to the [‘bæθəst] with which I’m more familiar.

The second point is related to the other car reviewed; the HSV Maloo R8, which is a ute, but the details are irrelevant. The point is, the word Maloo is, according to Richard Hammond, “Aborigine for lightning”. Ordinarily, I’d go on about there not being a language such as ‘Aborigine’, but I can overlook that these days. Anyway, I went to check my copy of Macquarie Aboriginal Words for various Australian languages’ translations of lightning, and indeed Wiradjuri comes up in the index with “Maarruu”, which I take to be pronounced [ma:ru], pretty close to the Vauxhall [ma:lu].

Does anyone know of a language close to Wiradjuri in which the trill is reflected as a lateral?

  1. That’s what the British call Holdens. []