A wigwam for a goose's bridle

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A wigwam for a goose's bridle is a phrase, once popular in Australia, meaning "none of your business". A common usage is in response to an inquiry such as Q. "What are you making?", A. "A wigwam for a goose's bridle".[1] The rejoinder was a code for "Mind your own business" and children acquired this pragmatic knowledge after repeated discourse with their parents ended with this response.[2] It was a common family saying.[3]

The phrase was also in use in New Zealand[4] and more generally by English speakers, for example in an 1836 magazine article referring to Calcutta and an exchange with a sailor.[5]

Originally, the phrase was "a whim-wham for a goose's bridle", with "whim-wham" a word meaning "a fanciful or fantastic object". The phrase was deliberately absurd as a goose would never wear a bridle. Folk etymology converted the word "whim-wham"—a word that was no longer much used—to "wigwam", an Ojibwa word for a domed single-room dwelling used by Native Americans. This change retained the phrase's absurd meaning and sense.[6]

The phrase is believed to be less popular than it once was.[7]

Other variations of this phrase are:

  • "Whim wham for ducks to sit on." (Stated by a woman of English heritage, first of six born (1907) in the US, in Rocks Springs, Wyoming)[citation needed]
  • "Whim whams to wind the sun up." (Said by an Englishman of Chester, Cheshire in the years 1930–1940)[citation needed]


  1. ^ Seal, Graham (1999). The Lingo: Listening to Australian English. UNSW Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-86840-680-0. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  2. ^ Wajnryb, Ruth (2008). Cheerio Tom, Dick and Harry: Despatches from the Hospice of Fading Words. Allen & Unwin. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-74114-993-7. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  3. ^ "Fish Trout: Children's Folklore". National Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  4. ^ "Tony Beyer". Manukau in Poetry. Manukau Libraries. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  5. ^ Walsh, Robert; Eliakim Littell; John Jay Smith (2005) [1836]. "Scene in Calcutta". Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art. Philadelphia: E Little. p. 590.  First published in The New Monthly Magazine
  6. ^ Ludowyk, Frederick. "All my eye and Betty Martin! The folk etymology of some popular idioms". OzWords. Australian National University : Australian National Dictionary Centre (October 1996). Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  7. ^ Chesterton, Ray (9 October 2006). "Aussie lingo facing extinction". News Ltd. Retrieved 13 June 2008. [dead link]