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#17: A Whale of a time

#17: A Whale of a time

I don't know about you, but this time of the year is when those New Year resolutions fall by the wayside. So, I am proud to announce that that hasn't happened to me, yet. I have written thirty little pieces of fiction. They are short, 250 word (approx) sketches.

The key with habits is to build upon them in a sustaibable way. I feel that in a few weeks I will be confident to say that this new habit will stick. Next will be a greater/healthy engagement with Twitter.

Tough, cough, dough & through

Why don't any of the above words rhyme? They ought to as all have 'ough'.

A fun question: what is 'ghoti'? Fish, obviously.

I'll explain why in a second, but the question is how did English become such a hodgepodge of spelling? The influences of modern English are from languages far and wide, but why didn't the spelling fall into some order?

The printing press forced the spelling to become consistent before any rules could become standardised.

The rush towards technology outpaced our ability to regulate common rules. Therefore, English is one of the hardest languages to learn. The rules are the exceptions.

Language is culture, and it develops with the movement of people. English grew because at different times, various nations conquered the small island. They all brought with them new words, which were incorporated into the language.

Whale ceremonies

Here in Australia, this evolution of language has been documented. Bruce Pascoe,  a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man, grew up on the south-eastern coast. His family have a whale ceremony celebrating the "whale's transformation from land mammal to creature of the ocean."

Pascoe was invited to witness the Wadandi's whale ceremony. Wadandi land is on the south-western coast. Between Yiun and Wadandi countries is four thousand kilometres (2485 miles), including 1,600kms (994 miles) of the Nullabor. The Latin origin of the word Nullabor is 'nullus arbor', or you'll be bloody lucky to see a tree the entire time. It is nothing but wide open desert plains.

Pascoe was "shocked to hear some of the language was identical to our own Yuin language."

During sixty thousand years, First Nations people developed intricate systems of communication and trade routes. The oldest living societies thrived in a land so vast and so unforgiving.


Ngarinyin Elder David Mowaljarlai (1928 - 1997) from the Northern Kimberley coastal region created a visual representation of these culture lines. He named the map 'Bandaya' and it shows the intricate web-like connections all humans have, be it pre-colonisation, or in today's hyperlinked world.

Bandaya - David Mowaljarlai

Whale appetites

Talking of whales, you know of Free Willy, right? Cute orca whale needing to be free?

A pod of orca whales recently attacked and devoured a healthy blue whale off the West Australian coast. According to The Guardian:

By the time observers reached the site, large chunks of skin and blubber had been stripped off the adult blue whale and most of the dorsal fin had been bitten off. After an hour of relentless attacks, three female killer whales lined up side-by-side and rammed the blue whale on its side, pushing it underwater, while two others attacked its head. The last one swam inside its mouth and started eating its tongue, which is nutritionally dense.

Want to know how amazing this feat was? Just look at this size comparison from the Smithsonian. Blue whales are 69-90 feet whereas the little cute Orcas are just 23-31 feet.

Isn't cutting the tongue out a Mafia-style message of what happens to informers?


Orcas use different strategies to kill their prey. They will disorientate sharks, exhaust whales and use bubbles for a school of ghoti.

Why is ghoti fish?

Take the 'gh' from tough and you have the 'f'.

The 'o' in women is actually an 'i' sound.

And the 'ti' in nation gives us the 'sh'.

End Note

Thanks for reading to the end. It means a lot. I love the responses, so please hit the reply.

Till next week,