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Jun 8, 2020
This week’s theme
Words having origins in rivers

This week’s words
Yarra-banker
Klondike
Rubicon
meander
Niagara

yarra-banker
The Yarra on Easter Monday, 1867
Engraving: Frederick Grosse
Image: State Library of Victoria

Previous week’s theme
Words borrowed from Japanese
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Nowadays you may choose to live in the middle of the desert and have aqueducts bring water to you, but way back when, you had to set up your tent (or build a condo) along a river.

That explains why so many cities are named after rivers: Amsterdam, after the river Amstel; Moscow, after the Moskva river, and so on. At least a dozen US states are named after rivers, Colorado, Wisconsin, and more. So many countries are named after rivers: Bosnia, from the river Bosna; Zambia, from the Zambezi river, etc.

Horses (Clydesdale, after the River Clyde in Scotland), companies (Amazon, after the Amazon river in South America), and more owe their names to rivers.

Rivers have inspired food for thought as well, as Napoleon Hill once said, “The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked.”

This week we’ll look at five words coined after rivers. Hop in the canoe as we paddle down the rivers in and around Australia, Canada, Italy, Turkey, and the US.

Yarra-banker

PRONUNCIATION:
(YAHR-uh-bangk-uhr)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A vagrant or a loafer.
2. A soapbox orator or agitator.

ETYMOLOGY:
After the Yarra river in Victoria, Australia. Its bank was once a popular hangout for vagrants, soapbox orators, and the like. Earliest documented use: late 19th century.

USAGE:
“There were many jokes about the draftsman [and poet Bernard O’Dowd] who was so pedantic about the right place for a comma and yet could write exuberantly about the Yarra-banker in the May Day procession keeping step with Christ.”
Victor Kennedy and Nettie Palmer; Bernard O’Dowd; Melbourne University Press; 1954.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools. -Marguerite Yourcenar, novelist (8 Jun 1903-1987)

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