In August 2019, the ANDC launched the first annual appeal for contributions to our archive of Australian English. As well as supplementing our online searchable database, these appeals will help us identify possible new entries for the Australian National Dictionary (AND). Each annual appeal will focus on a different theme.
This year’s appeal asked for the nicknames of Australian places: the informal names we use for our regions, cities, towns, and suburbs. The Gazetteer of Australia provides information about official and formal names, with over 370,000 geographical names in its database. This vast record is supplemented by the Australian National Placenames Survey, which provides further historical and linguistic information. However, information relating to the colloquial forms of Australian placenames is limited.
The AND currently includes a small number of nicknames for places that are well-established or have some historical and linguistic importance. For example, there are a number of entries for states (or former colonies), including: apple island (Tasmania), Banana land (Queensland), cabbage garden (Victoria), Crowland (South Australia), Ma State (New South Wales), and Sandgroperland (Western Australia). Nicknames for cities include: Brisvegas (Brisbane), bush capital (Canberra), city of churches (Adelaide), Emerald City (Sydney), Silver City (Broken Hill), and Smellbourne (Melbourne). There are also a number of terms for Australia, such as: Aussie, Oz, Lucky Country, and land of the long weekend. Names for regions include: dead heart, top end, the mallee, and the mulga.
The appeal was publicised through broadcast media and generated nationwide interest. The response was enthusiastic and demonstrated the large number of colloquial names for places across the country; already we’ve added more than a thousand distinct names to our database. Many of these were submitted multiple times, revealing the frequency of some of the terms.
Of particular interest to us are the similarities between the patterns of nicknaming and other forms of word generation in Australian English. Here are some initial observations on the contributions.
One of the simplest forms of naming is the basic abbreviation: Bruns (Brunswick), Coffs (Coffs Harbour), Foots (Footscray), Kal (Kalgoorlie), Shep (Shepparton). Other types of abbreviated forms include: Curry (Cloncurry), Melbs (Melbourne), MoPo (Moonee Ponds), Ninsh (Mornington Peninsula), SoHo (South Hobart), Trak (Toorak).
The most common pattern is an abbreviated form of the name with the addition of the -y (-ie) or -o suffix. This is the characteristic feature of Australian English we see in words like arvo (afternoon) and barbie (barbecue). Here is a small sample of the contributions we received: Barky (Barcaldine), Bridgie (Bridgewater), Deni (Deniliquin), Freo (Fremantle), Gero (Geraldton), Goldy (Gold Coast), Paddo (Paddington), Reddy (Redcliffe), and Straddy (Stradbroke Island).
Another common pattern is the use of an abbreviated name preceded by the. This is a particularly Australian form, recorded since the 1880s in names of northern towns such as the Alice (Alice Springs), the Isa (Mount Isa), and the Tennant (Tennant Creek). Examples include: the Berra (Canberra), the Doo (Humpy Doo), the Go (Bendigo), the Gong (Wollongong), the Gun (Gunnedah), the Mount (Mount Gambier), the Rat (Ballarat), and the Reach (Longreach).
The -vegas ending in placenames, as in Brisvegas (Brisbane), proved to be quite common. The allusion to Las Vegas is ironic, comparing a relatively quiet place to the razzamatazz of the casino city. We now have evidence for Ascot Vegas (Ascot Vale), Dubvegas (Dubbo), Gloss Vegas (Glossodia), Moss Vegas (Moss Vale or Mossman), Palmvegas (Palmerston), Prosvegas (Proserpine), Rockvegas (Rockhampton), and Yass Vegas (Yass) to name a few. We give a similar nod to US placenames in Ballafornia (Ballarat), Brisneyland (Brisbane), and Moss Angeles (Mossman).
Two other common nickname patterns, both ironic, are worth noting. In the pattern ‘x’ by the Sea, the name of a coastal town or city is replaced by that of a smaller, more rural, or supposedly less attractive place—as in Townsville being named Broken Hill by the Sea. Other examples are: Dubbo by the Sea (Sydney), Logan by the Sea (Redcliffe), and Mount Druitt by the Sea (Coffs Harbour). Another lengthy nickname pattern is the form People’s Republic of ‘x’, alluding to especially inner-city areas where residents are perceived to be socially progressive. Examples are chiefly Victorian, with the People’s Republic label applied to Brunswick, Coburg, Moreland, and Yarraville. Canberra has the People’s Republic of Ainslie, and a left-leaning federal electorate in New South Wales is the People’s Republic of Grayndler.
As well as the many derogatory names (often with affixes like crime, ghetto, hole, slum, and stab), we had plenty of tongue-in-cheek contributions. For example, Charlie’s Trousers (Charters Towers), Happy Rock (Gladstone), Marry your Brother (Maryborough), Shagger’s Ridge (Rooty Hill), Sheep Dunny Cow Dunny (Wooloomooloo), and Swinging Pig (Rockingham). Quite a few places had multiple names, such as Woy Woy (Above Ground Cemetery, the Woy, Two Woy, Why Why, Wow Wow, Yow Yow).
Other common naming patterns worth noting include the use of the combining form -town, for example A-town (Adelaide), G-town (Geelong), and P-town (Perth); the use of the -ers suffix, for example Footers (Footscray), Gunners (Gungahlin), Sydders (Sydney), and Torkers (Torquay); the use of bong, for example Bring ya bong along (Briagolong), Dandebong (Dandelong), and Getabong (Ettalong). The use of the Australian term bogan (a person who is regarded as being uncultured or unsophisticated) is found in the forms Boganville, Boganistan, Bogan Town, and Bogan Bay, and is applied to various towns across Australia.
A rarer naming pattern that emerged in the appeal is the use of the zz infix replacing rr, for example Muzza Bizza (Murray Bridge), Mezza (Merredin), Nazza Wazza (Narre Warren), and Wezza (Werribee). This follows a similar pattern used for nicknames like Shazza (Sharon), Barry (Bazza), and Dazza (Darren).
For a more detailed linguistic study of Australian nicknames for placenames see Jane Simpson’s article ‘Hypocoristics of place-names’ in English in Australia (David Blair & Peter Collins Eds., Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2001).
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