Placenames Australia

yo yo creek.jpg

It was with great delight that I noticed that one of my favourite newsletters, Placenames Australia, had lobbed into my mail. No longer just in print form, it is being delivered in digital form. The lead article by Jan Tent is on the name of a Queensland waterway, Yo-Yo Creek. 

It is often difficult to track down the origins of placenames. So much folklore builds up around them that it requires forensic skills to sort out fiction from fact. Sometimes the popular belief is recorded in a text which makes it seem official so it is even harder to see it for what it is.

In this case an ex-Police Magistrate and Gold Warden doing a two-year stint in the district in 1866-68 recorded ‘a queer feature of the creek being that after a heavy fall of rain it came down in a solid high wall of water, and woe betide any unfortunate who happened to be camping too near its banks.’ The idea became popular that the levels in the creek yo-yoed up and down, and so it derived its name.

Unfortunately, the fact is that, while the toy which we know as the yo-yo has a long history, that particular name was not known in English until 1915, and the verb to yo-yo did not exist until the 1950s. So while flash floods may have been a feature of the creek, it was not being offered as an explanation for the name.

I won’t be a spoiler and tell you what the real explanation is. Go to and enjoy this and many more placename stories.

environmentSue ButlerComment