RE: Alternative names for Sparrows

To: <>
Subject: RE: Alternative names for Sparrows
From: James Lambert <>
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 00:09:03 +1100
On the alternative names of Sparrows (Passer sp.) in AustraliaIn Australian 
English there are a number of regional names for the sparrow – used generally 
for the introduced House Sparrow Passer domesticus, or, in Melbourne and 
surrounds, also for the introduced Tree Sparrow, P. montanus.As I used to a 
lexicographer with Macquarie Dictionary I have collected a reasonable amount of 
information about these terms.The oldest alternative/colloquial name, is 
SPADGER. Recorded since at least 1934, but perhaps earlier than my current 
records indicate, as witness C.J. Dennis’ book of verse “Rose of Spadgers” from 
1924, which is set in a fictional Spadgers Lane. While this contains nothing 
about sparrows at all, it does point to the possible currency of the term 
“spadger” in Australian English. At any rate, the word itself is a direct 
adoption from northern British dialect, and is earliest recorded in a dialect 
glossary from Leeds from1862, but spread throughout the entire UK by the 20thC. 
It is presumed that this term is merely a fanciful alteration of the original 
English word “sparrow”, which word itself dates back to Old English times, the 
very beginning of the language.Chronologically, the next earliest term in 
Australia seems to be SPAG, recorded from 1951. Probably also of British 
dialect origin with the forms “spag” and “spug” being found in Nottinghamshire 
and Northumberland since the 19thC.I have been able to date SPOGGY / SPOGGIE 
only as far back as 1975 in Australian sources, but it must be earlier. This is 
especially common in South Australia. Possibly also of British dialect origin. 
Cf. Yorkshire and Tyneside dialect “spuggy”.  SPROGGY is an uncommon variant of 
spoggy, recorded from SA. Sidney J. Baker also mentions the forms SPROG and 
SPROGGY in the second edition of “The Australian Langauge” 1966.SPRAG is the 
form especially common in Queensland. My earliest record is 1981, but, once 
again, presumedly earlier. Northumberland dialect has “sprig” and the forms 
“sprug” and “sprong” are recorded from Scotland.SPAGGER is a term recorded from 
a single informant from Nyngan, NSW. This is most probably a local variant of 
the more common SPADGER.Sidney J. Baker also recorded the forms spridgy and 
spudgy in 1959, but as far as I am aware these are no longer in use. Certainly 
they do not turn up in the Australian Wordmap database, 2003, run jointly by 
Macquarie Dictionary and the ABC, the largest ever collection of Australian 
regional English. related terms 
from British dialect are “spyng” from Kirkcudbright and “spurdie” from the 
Orkneys. Other unrelated dialect names for the house sparrow are “chummy”, 
“craff”, “hoosie”, “Philip”, “phip”, “row-dow”, “thatch sparrow”, “tile 
sparrow” and “eave sparrow”.Of course, there is no necessity to suppose that 
all the Australian forms had to originate in British dialect. They could have 
arisen as local variants of SPADGER, following the same rules of phonetic 
change as those evident in England. The vast gap is years between the 
Australian and British forms, coupled with the difference in the vowels (Oz 
sprag vs UK sprig; Oz spoggy vs UK spuggy), militates against a direct adoption 
of British forms in all cases.By the by, although these words are frequently 
used by children, and abandoned as adults, I don’t think that it is a case of 
children “getting it wrong”. If this were so, then why don’t hundreds of other 
words have such a vast array of variant forms? Sparrow is a pretty 
straightforward word for native-speakers to pronounce, even for kids (who often 
have difficulty with other well-known words, like hospital/hostible, 
spaghetti/psketi, ask/arks, nuclear/nucular, etc.)PS Anthea – I’d love to hear 
from you if you ever do chase down that reference to Spriggies!!James Lambert 
--Forwarded Message Attachment--From: : 
; ; : 
Sat, 22 Nov 2008 12:17:40 +1100Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] Sparrows"Spadge or 
Spadger: The HOUSE-SPARROW. (Northern counties.) A vulgar corruption of 
Sparrow." Swann, H. Kirke 1913, "A Dictionary of English and Folk-names of 
British Birds", Witherby & Co, London  I notice that some web sites also 
suggest that "Spadger" is common in Northern Ireland also.  Paul DoddDocklands, 
Victoria   -----Original Message-----From: Peter Shute 
 Sent: Saturday, 22 November 2008 11:14 AMTo: 
; ; 
: Re: [Birding-Aus] Sparrows I wonder whether 
the many variations on the name have come about because they are initially 
learned by children from other children, increasing the chances of getting it 
wrong. Peter Shute  --------------------------Sent using BlackBerry ----- 
Original Message -----From:  
<>Sent: Sat Nov 22 10:24:48 2008Subject: RE: 
[Birding-Aus] Sparrows My parents (English) have always called them "Spadgers". 
Paul DoddDocklands, Victoria  -----Original Message-----From:] On 
Behalf : Friday, 21 November 2008 1:57 PMTo: 
: RE: [Birding-Aus] Sparrows "Spadger" is a 
common British synonym for sparrow.I have read somewhere that in Victoria they 
used to be known as "Spriggies"because aleading light in the Victorian 
Acclimatization Society was a Mr. Sprigg. (Ihave spentdays trying to find a 
reference for this statement without success but Iknow it's theresomewhere). 
Anthea Fleming   > Here in the Hunter Valley NSW numerous birdos refer to them 
as> "Spadgers">> A Brew>> -----Original Message-----> From: 
On Behalf Of Nick Uren> Sent: Thursday, 20 November 2008 5:29 PM> To: Bill 
Jolly; ; > Subject: Re: 
[Birding-Aus] Sparrows>> Dear Bill and Philip,>                                 
    Many thanks for your replies to my> question about sparrows,> it certainly 
helps clarify and simplify the situation.  However, I> have had no responses 
with respect to local or alternative names for> sparrows which although 
disappointing is not surprising I suppose in> the sense that most people I ask 
have no awareness that  sparrows are> called anything else.  I will keep 
searching.  Thanks again.>>        Yours sincerely>>       Nick Uren
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