jelly bags

Australia has a new minister for Aboriginal affairs, and he visited Elcho Island (in Eastern Arnhem Land) recently. There’s a link to the story here. What caught my eye about this story was the line

[T]he Garrawarra clan warmly welcomed Mal Brough, hanging an orange jelly bag over his head in support of his new portfolio.

Now, what’s a jelly bag? I’m pretty sure it’s a typo/thinko/hearo for ‘dilly bag’, which is, as far as I know, still part of Australian English (it’s a bag). What intrigues me, though, is it’s similar to the d/[ɟ] confusion that is found in early Bardi maps. e.g. Tallon Island for Jalan, Tyra for Jayirri, although here it’s in the other direction.

So, a question for the Australian readers – do you know the term dilly bag? Is it archaic to you? I knew it before I went to Arnhem Land as part of Australian English.


2 responses to “jelly bags

  1. I used to take my dilly bag to camp with me when I was in Guides. It held my plate and enamel mug and knife and fork. I’d never heard it before I went to Australia (which was 1986).

    Oddly, my friend from NZ *insisted* that said item was called a “ditty bag”.

  2. We had dilly bags at Brownies, and I think the term was in my lexicon before that context-specific usage. I think I knew it had a reference to an Aboriginal artefact, but didn’t really know what an ‘authentic’ dilly bag was until much later. Now I have two hanging on my wall!

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