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Meaning of the word “Wattle.”

IT is desirable that we should become conversant with the meaning of the terms we use, and therefore I proceed to give the meaning of the word wattle, which is usually employed merely as a name.

In Webster's Dictionary (see also Skeat) a wattle is defined as a twig or flexible rod; a hurdle made of such rods; a rod laid on a roof to support the thatch. Hence, when used as a verb, it signifies to bind with twigs; to twist or interweave (twigs) one with another; to plait, to form of plaited twigs. It has the same derivation as the word wallet, both being from the Anglo-Saxon watel, a hurdle, covering; in Middle English signifying a bag; the verb is watelen, to wattle, twist together, strengthen with hurdles. It is a matter of common knowledge how small trees were used in the manner indicated in the above definitions, in the erection of various structures in the early days of the Colony. Acacias were undoubtedly used (with other small trees), and it is interesting to the student of language to note how the word wattle has now become practically synonymous with Acacia.

The Rev. Dr. Woolls, however, assures me that the earliest application of the word wattle was not to an Acacia at all, but to Callicoma serratifolia, Andr., a small tree belonging to the Saxifrageœ, and which is generally found near watercourses. It was probably abundant along the course of the streams which flowed into “Sydney Cove;” and in the earliest records of “dab and wattle” structures, the tough saplings of this species were alluded to. It is called “black wattle,” at page 201 of vol. iii of Don's work on Dichlamydeous Plants, published in 1834. The compact round heads of flowers have a general resemblance to those of wattles, and I have, on more than one occasion, when out in the bush, been asked by an unbotanical companion, “What kind of wattle is this?”

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