Whether terms of endearment or derision, the floodgates have opened on the many monikers we bestow upon our cities and towns, Amanda Laugesen, BA (Hons) ’97, PhD ’01 writes.
This year, the Australian National Dictionary Centre ran the first of its annual appeals for contributions to be considered for inclusion in the Australian National Dictionary: Australian Words and Their Origins (AND).
Contributions from the public are an important way that we are alerted to new words and words we’ve missed. This year, the theme of our appeal was ‘nicknames for places’. While the second edition of AND (2016) already includes a number of these, we have yet to look systematically at colloquialisms for places.
We were flooded with contributions, especially from social media, and including many from regional areas. Our database now has more than 1,000 entries needing further research, and we hope to gather more.
So what kinds of nicknames do Australians like to give to the places they live in? There are many patterns and features. Unsurprisingly, most are abbreviations, such as Kal for Kalgoorlie, WA or Port for Port Macquarie, NSW. The ‘-o’ and ‘-y/ie’ endings, a feature of Australian English, are also commonly found: Freshie for Freshwater, NSW, Gero for Geraldton, WA, and Hamo for Hamilton, QLD, are all examples of this. The suffix ‘-ers’ also appears: for example, Footers for Footscray, VIC, and Tuggers for Tuggeranong, ACT.
A number of place names appear to attract the ‘Vegas’ ending. The best known is Brisvegas for Brisbane, but we have recorded a number of these, including Dubvegas for Dubbo, NSW, Moss Vegas for Moss Vale, NSW, Palmvegas for Palmerston, NT, and Prosvegas for Proserpine, QLD. The ‘Vegas’ ending alludes ironically to the lack of ‘excitement’ of a place, although in the case of Brisvegas it seems to have become embraced as a sign of Brisbane’s dynamism.
The use of ‘the’ is also common. The Alice (for Alice Springs, NT) is probably one of the best-known instances of this, but we have now recorded The Mount for Mount Gambier, SA, The Rat for Ballarat, VIC, The Dong for Wodonga, VIC, and The Burg for Coburg, VIC. A number of ‘-towns’ also appear: C-town for Campbelltown, NSW, D-town for Darwin, NT, G-town for Goulburn, NSW, and P-town for Perth, WA.
A number of nicknames are, as might be expected, derogatory or humorous. Canberra attracts quite a few names like this: gateway to Queanbeyan, the Galah Cage, Can’tberra,
Coldberra, and Pig’s trough. Other examples from around Australia include Bogan city for Bunbury, QLD, Bring ya bong along for Briagolong, VIC, Broken Hill by the Sea for Townsville, QLD, Crimebourne for Cranbourne, VIC, the insular peninsula for Sutherland Shire in Sydney, and People’s Republic of Brunswick for Brunswick, VIC.