The Weet-Weet, or Kangaroo Rat

Ever since I read Mark Twain’s book Following the Equator I have wondered about the Australian Device he describes, called the weet-weet. It is evidently a peculiarly Australian device, and seems to be a sort of toy:

http://www.hannibal.net/twain/works/following_the_equator_1897/chapter21.shtml

The thing is, I haven’t been able to find out anything else about it. All my searches (including internet searches) all come back to Twain’s book by some route or other. I’ve tried Australian sources and sites, but I haven’t been able to find out anything more about this. Was someone having Twain on? Or does this really exist? Any Aussie Dopers know about this? Any cites?

I’m not an Aussie, but I’ll give it a shot.

In a medieval glossary (!!) (this site) it says:

While Strine Decoded (a cool site I’m going to have to use in future, I think) lists the weet-weet as:

I’ll put a link through to the other board, and see if my Australian cousins can come up with more.

Thanks, Ice Wolf. I found the medieval glossary already. These two sites at least acknowledge the existence of the thing, but they might still derive from Twain – there’s nothing in them that’s not in his book. I’ve looked through Australian and aborigine books and sites without any luck thus far of finding new stuff.

I suspect the woomera may be involved.

From Tasmanian aborigines - a history.

Could the “weet-weet” have been similar to or the same as the “woomera”? That “25 yard” figure seems common to both as far as throwing range is concerned.

The “woomera” sounds like an atlatl, or spear thrower, which was used to greatly extend the range of a spear and the effort needed to throw it. The atlatl stayed in your hand when you threw the spear. (I’ve corresponded with a guy who ran an atlatl contest in Montana). The “weet-weet”, if I understand the descriptions by Twain and in the sites you noted, isn’t associated with a spear, and is itself thrown.

An australian might not be the best person to ask in this circumstance, there’s an unwritten rule that we play along with any stories being told to the unwitting American i.e. the bunyip, drop bears, and the platypus (I still can’t believe people still think the platypus is real. A furry mammal with a ducks bill that lays eggs, has webbed feet, lives in water and has poisionous spirs? c’mon people think!).

For the SD sake I’ll break this agreement and say I’ve never heard of it, but if you want, I could ask my mother who works in a nursing post in a rural town called Coolgardie to find out straight from the aboriginal’s mouth as it were.

There is a book in the library where I work:
HAAGEN, Claudia (1995)
BUSH TOYS: ABORIGINAL CHILDREN AT PLAY
It’s on loan at the moment, but it sounds like a good place to look.

Bingo.

It looks like we’ve been searching under the anglicised spelling used by Brough Smythe - the Aborginal word we should have looked for appears to be wuywayit.

There’s a fairly good description and illustration of this weapon/toy on the Monash University website, with additional decriptions vBulletin Home Page and here.

The word seems to be from the Woiworung language.

Bingo!

Thanks, Reprise. You have indeed found it. For some reason, it never showed upwith any of the search engines I tried, under any spelling. But I figured somebody would have it.