Kararaya yawarra — word of the week: mudlha

Today we look at the Diyari word mudlha (also pronounced mulha) which can be translated into English as ‘face’ and ‘nose’, but also has a wider range of other uses. It is also found in a lot of idioms — ways of speaking where the parts do not necessarily add up to the meaning of the whole (like English ‘kick the bucket’ to mean ‘to die’).

Here are some examples showing the different uses:

  1. ‘nose’
    • thanali muku kurrarna wanthiyi mudlhanhi ‘They used to put a bone in their noses long ago’
    • mudlha kilthi ‘snot, nasal mucus’
    • mudlha murru ‘dried crust of snot under the nose’
    • mudlha kumarri ‘nosebleed’
    • mudla wirlpa ‘nostril, hole in nose’
    • mudla durru ‘hook of the nose’
    • mudlha ngankarna ‘to rub the nose’ (ngankarna generally means ‘to do, make’)
    • nganhi mudlha pununu parrayi ‘my nose is itching’. People believe that when your nose itches then someone must be talking about you behind your back.
  2. ‘tip of a body part’
    • mara mudlha ‘tip of the finger’ (mara means ‘hand, finger’)
    • thidna mudla ‘tiptoe’ (thidna means ‘foot, toe’)
  3. ‘tip or edge of something in nature’
    • ngarrimatha mudlha ‘the edge of rising flood waters’
    • wathara mudlha ‘the edge of an approaching windstorm’
    • daku mudlha ‘the point of a sandhill’
    • karirri mudlha ‘the line of trees marking the edge of watercourse or creek’
    • pirta mulha ‘the thick end of a fallen tree’
    • kalku mudlha ‘the bottom end of a reed where is is broken off the root or stalk’
  4. ‘tip or end of something that people make’
    1. katu mudlha ‘the end of a windbreak’
    2. palthu mudlha ‘the end of a road or path’
    3. marda mudlha ‘the pointed end of a grinding stone’
  5. ‘face’
    • mudlha ngumu ‘beautiful, attractive face’
    • mudlha manyu ‘friendly face’
    • mudlha kurlikirri ‘clean washed face’
    • mudlha dulyardulya ‘dirty face’
    • mudlha malka ‘stripes painted on the face’. Traditionally, when someone died the women would paint their faces with black and white stripes using charcoal and gypsum

Here are some idioms that use mudlha where the overall meaning is not predictable from the other words in the expression:

  • mudlha putyu (literally ‘face blind’) ‘not paying attention when something bad could be predicted to happen’, for example, minhandru yundru kupa yinparna warayi ngapa padninhi? Yidni mudlha putyu?. ‘Why did you send the children out without any water? Couldn’t you see (they would nearly die of thirst)?
  • mudlha yarkirna (literally ‘face burn’) ‘to look angry’
  • mudlha pirtarirna (literally ‘face become wood’) ‘to become sullen, surly, glum’
  • mudlha wararna (literally ‘face throw’) ‘to pull a long face, to look sad or disapproving’
  • mudlha thiri pardakarna (literally ‘face angry take’) ‘to make up, become reconciled with someone’. When two people are upset with each other meet and make up then they take the angry faces away.
  • mudlha wathirna (literally ‘face search’) ‘to look for someone among a group of people’
  • mudlha punthiparna (literally ‘face separate’) ‘to separate people into two groups and send them on their way’
  • mudlha matharna (literally ‘nose bite’) ‘to give someone the cold shoulder, for a woman to turn down an offer of marriage’
  • mudlha murruwarna (literally ‘nose scratch’) ‘to beat around the bush, to ask for something indirectly’
  • mudlha ngurdarna (literally ‘face stretch’) ‘to hurry ahead of someone’
  • mudlha kutya (literally ‘face feather’) ‘leader of a revenge expedition’. Traditionally, when someone died a group of men called a pinya would be sent out to avenge the death by killing someone from another group. The leader of the pinya is called mudlha kutya because they have feathers stuck on their face with blood.

Words in the examples :

dakusandhill
dulyardulyadirty
durrubent over
kalkureed
karirricreek, watercourse
katuwindbreak
kilthijuice, liquid
kumarriblood
kupachild, children
kurlikirriclean
kurrarnato put
kutyafeather of a bird (not emu)
malkamark, line, stripe
manyugood, sweet
marahand, finger
mardastone, rock, money
matharnato bite
minhandruwhy?
mukubone
murrucrust
murruwarnato scratch
ngankarnato make, to do
ngapawater
ngarrimathaflood
ngumugood
ngurdarnato stretch
padninone, nothing
palthuroad, path
parrayiis lying down (of inanimate objects)
pinyarevenger expedition
pirtatree, wood
pirtarirnato be come wood
punthiparnato separate, divide in two
pununuitchy
putyublind
thidnafoot, toe
wararnato throw
watharawind
wirlpahole in solid object
yarkirnato burn
yinparnato send

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