The word galah is a borrowing into Australian English from the Aboriginal Yuwaalaraay language of northern New South Wales. In early records it is variously spelt as galar, gillar, gulah, etc. It is first recorded in 1862 in J. McKinlay's Journal of Exploration in the Interior of Australia: `A vast number of gulahs, curellas, macaws... here'. The bird referred to is the grey-backed, pink-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus, occurring in all parts of Australia except the extreme north-east and south-west. It is also known as the red-breasted cockatoo and rose-breasted cockatoo. Some early settlers use the galah as food. In 1902 the Truth newspaper reports: 'The sunburnt residents of at that God-forsaken outpost of civilisation were subsisting on stewed galah and curried crow'. Some writers report that galah pie was a popular outback dish. The galah, which usually appears in a large flock, has a raucous call, and it was perhaps this trait which produced the term galah session for a period allocated for private conversation, especially between women on isolated stations, over an outback radio network. F. Flynn in Northern Gateway (1963) writes: 'The women's radio hour, held regularly night and morning and referred to everywhere as the 'Galah Session'. It is a special time set aside for lonely station women to chat on whatever subject they like'. More generally, a galah session is 'a long chat' - A. Garve, Boomerang (1969): 'For hours the three men chatted... It was Dawes who said at last, "I reckon this galah session's gone on long enough".' Very commonly in Australian English galah is used to refer to a fool or idiot. A.R. Marshall and R. Drysdale in Journey among Men (1962), suggest that this sense of galah may have a non-Australian origin: 'A clue to the possible origin of the slang usage of 'galah'. In Malaya gila (pronounced gee-lah) means mad; henceorang gila, a madman'. But this explanation has not been accepted, and the Australian meaning must be a transfer from the bird, no doubt incorporating a judgment about the relative intelligence of the bird. The following citations give an indication of how the term is used: 1951 E. Lambert, Twenty Thousand Thieves: 'Yair, and I got better ideas than some of the galahs that give us our orders'. 1960 R.S. Porteous, Cattleman: 'The bloke on the other end of the line is only some useless galah tryin' to sell a new brand of dip'. 1971 J. O'Grady, Aussie Etiket: 'You would be the greatest bloody galah this side of the rabbit-proof fence'. From this sense arise a number of colloquial idioms. To be mad as a gum-tree full of galahs is to be completely crazy. To make a proper galah of oneself is to make a complete fool of oneself. A pack of galahs is a group of contemptibly idiotic people.

Australian idioms. 2014.

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