- Soon after white settlement in 1788 the word bandicoot (the name for the Indian mammal Bandicota indica) was applied to several Australian mammals having long pointed heads and bearing some resemblance to their Indian namesake. In 1799 David Collins writes of the 'bones of small animals, such as opossums... and bandicoots'. From 1830s the word bandicoot has been used in various distinctively Australian phrases as an emblem of deprivation or desolation. In 1837 H. Watson in Lecture on South Australia writes: 'The land here is generally good; there is a small proportion that is actually good for nothing; to use a colonial phrase, "a bandicoot (an animal between a rat and a rabbit) would starve upon it".' Typical examples include: • as miserable as a bandicoot • as poor as a bandicoot • as bald as a bandicoot • as blind as a bandicoot • as hungry as a bandicoot Probably from the perception of the bandicoot's burrowing habits, a new Australian verb to bandicootarose towards the end of the nineteenth century. It means 'to remove potatoes from the ground, leaving the tops undisturbed'. Usually this activity is surreptitious. Citations from the Australian National Dictionaryinclude: 1896 Bulletin 12 December: I must 'bandicoot' spuds from the cockies - Or go on the track! 1899 Bulletin 2 December: 'Bandicooting'.. is a well-known term all over Western Vic. potato-land. The bandicooter goes at night to a field of ripe potatoes and carefully extracts the tubers from the roots without disturbing the tops. 1942 E. Langley, Pea Pickers: All the pumpkins and maize we can pinch, every potato we can bandicoot. 1980 P. Pepper, You are what you make Yourself: Men at the station had threatened to shoot them because they had bandicooted the potatoes.
Australian idioms. 2014.