"That's a blackfella word. It's the ultimate praise anyone can give you"
– performer Leah Purcell.
We've just seen the Deadlies awarded at the Sydney Opera House. There's a Deadly surf carnival at Umina on the Woy Woy Peninsula. And our Central Coast Reconciliation Group has begun on-selling Deadly badges (pictured).
But I've yet to find someone who can tell me when Aboriginal people began to use deadly as a synonym for outstanding.
The most plausible explanation is that Aboriginal youth picked it up as their “in-word” in the same way young whitefellas used “awesome” or “sick”.
I'd love to hear from anyone who could cite early examples of the Aboriginal use of “deadly”.
This Sydney Morning Herald story reports the Deadlies award ceremony, and it's where I found the quote attributed to Leah Purcell. There's more information on the Deadlies here.
Meanwhile, I did pick up another word understood by young Aboriginal people – “gunjies”, for the police – from a brochure on offer at the Mingaletta centre in Umina, on the Woy Woy peninsula. The brochure sets out the rights and responsibilities of both the police and anyone they pull up and want to question, search, or arrest.
And I also know that as a whitefella, I'm a “gubba” to many Aboriginal people. The Macquarie dictionary says the word comes from an Aboriginal term meaning “white demon”.