kyle, kylie

There are some words, like some people and some songs, that you just can’t get out of your head – they keep coming back to you. And sometimes when they come back they mean a different thing each time.

One word like that is kyle. As a noun, it has three different origins and three different meanings. One is ‘sore, ulcer, or boil’, coming from Old Norse kyli ‘boil, abscess’. Another refers to a small iron wedge that holds the head of a hammer (or similar implement) onto the shaft; it’s related to German Keil. The third is ‘narrow channel, strait’; it comes from Gaelic caol (pronounced about like “kale”). If you know someone named Kyle – or if that’s your name – you’ll be relieved to know that the personal name comes from that third sense.

Which is not to say all Kyles are strait-laced. Certainly not all Kylies are. I don’t know about you, but when I see Kylie I immediately come back to Kylie Minogue, the pop star who had a huge hit with her 2001 “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”

Funny thing about Kylie, though. She’s from Australia. And while I don’t know what her parents had in mind when naming her, there’s another word from Australia we need to come around to: kylie. It’s not very common in current use, but it’s still in the dictionary.

What’s a kylie? It’s another distinctly Australian thing: a boomerang. The word comes from Noongar, one of the indigenous (Aborigine) languages of southwest Australia. So it’s fitting that Kylie has had many happy returns.

Just as a little tangent: her family name Minogue traces back to an Irish Gaelic word meaning ‘monk’. Kylie doesn’t seem very monastic… I guess she came around.

5 responses to “kyle, kylie

  1. Chips Mackinolty

    Except Kylie, and variants in other languages, does not mean “returning” boomerang, so the “many returns” comment is incorrect. One of the great myths is that all boomerangs “come back. Simply not true. Most are designed for hunting and/or fighting.

  2. Kristi Anderson

    Haha Chips, good one, but don’t be so hard on yourself! Some words just set off our inner-pedants. My husband is a (retired) psychiatric nurse and simply loathes the casual use of schizophrenia or schizophrenia. You might say he gets so upset he is beside himself… sorry

    • Chips Mackinolty

      I’m with your husband! I have been blind in my right eye since the age of six. On the one hand I get sick of comments/jokes etc about blindness/being half blind etc (from physical, to drunken, to political), on the other hand I make jokes about it all the time. Having worked in the health sector on and off over the years, I find a bit of dark humour is good for the soul!

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