What's In A Name, Mate?

A Sideways Glance at the Hidden Meaning of Aussie Place Names

There are many place names around the world that cry out to tell you their true meaning. Well, perhaps not their ridgey didge true meaning, but who has ever looked at the name Footscray and not felt that it probably also exists as an entry in a medical dictionary? Or Patchewollock, or Humpty Doo? Exactly. Furthermore, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of things, situations, personality types, events, etc, which have no adequate name. What do you call the person who cheerfully ignores the lane markers on a roundabout or motorway, then drives on, blissfully unaware that you have only just avoided having your wing and door remodelled? No – apart from that… Now, there is an even better choice to be found somewhere, on the signposts of this great nation.

It is now time for Australia to step forward, and lend some of its magnificent place names to the great cause of the “unnamed definition”.


  1. A

Aaron’s Pass n
In football (any code), delivery of the ball so that it is just out of reach of any team-mate, and rolls safely into touch.

Abercorn n
The first – and most painful – damage to the feet when breaking in a new pair of hiking boots.

Aberfeldy n
The ungainly stumble performed by a novice attempting any form of Scottish country dancing for the first time, when he goes the opposite direction to everyone else and tries to correct the mistake. cf Acland.

Abergowrie n
A particularly fierce scowl, which only those with at least 5 generations of Scots ancestry can perform. May be silent or accompanied by a low growl or, occasionally, a mystic Gaelic curse.

Abraham’s Bosom n
The appearance of the chest of a man carrying live geese in his shirt.

Acheron n
A testicle that suffers repeated accidental abuse.

Acheron River n
Tears brought to the eyes as a result of a severe Acheron (qv) incident.

Acland n
A successful recovery from what would otherwise have become an Aberfeldy (qv), performing instead an entertaining and inventive variation on the conventional sequence of movements.

Adventure Bay n
Cupid’s playground. The nether wonderland. Happy hollow. The groin.

Adaminaby n
A person who leads another into temptation, fully intending to dump them in the fertiliser afterwards. cf Old Adaminaby.

Addington n
A person who, after doing a sum with an electronic calculator, has to repeat it because he fears having miskeyed one or more digits. A second repetition will be necessary, in case the suspected mistake was repeated. However, all three answers will be identically correct.

Agery adj
Over-sensitive to having your advancing years mentioned in public.

Agnes Water n
The unsavoury contents of a vase, when the flowers are a week past their best.

Agnew v
To insist that you knew something before being told it, despite being caught out in your ignorance.

Airey’s Inlet n
The safest and fastest route through tightly packed customers, to the bar. Discovered in 1897 by someone later passed over for a place in Scott’s Antarctic expedition; it is named after the man standing beside him who, ironically, was served first.

Alawoona n
An exaggerated display of being overcome with astonishment, as carried out by toddlers, teenagers and the perpetually guilty.

Alice Springs n
In a mattress, those springs that, no matter how the mattress is turned, always poke through on the husband’s side. cf Ban Ban Springs.

Allen’s Rivulet n
The moment when beads of sweat down the back turn into a continuous flow, while cutting the grass in high summer.

Alligator Creek n
The unique sound of a badly-fitting false limb, acquired after a tropical swimming accident.

Alloway adj
Descriptive of a traveller’s misplaced confidence in being on the right road.

Almoola adj
Of a person obsessed with amassing great personal wealth, but with no clear intention to spend or share any of it whatsoever.

Aloomba n
The noise made by a 120-kilo person bouncing on a trampoline, in an echo chamber.


Dedicated to the memory of Douglas Adams,who nourished my sense of the absurd.

Copyright © Duncan Waldron & Matt Davis 2008.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Note: I am keen to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that no disrespect at all is intended towards any place whose name is featured in this work. All the disrespect is aimed squarely at the annoying prats, frustrating situations, etc, to which those names have been (temporarily) assigned.

What's In A Name, Mate?

Duncan Waldron

Camira, Australia

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 4

Artist's Description

Inspired by Douglas Adams & John Lloyd’s “Liff” books, here are the first few entries of an antipodean variant. I am looking at possibilities for publishing this, in an illustrated version

Artwork Comments

  • Natella2020
  • Duncan Waldron
  • Duncan Waldron
  • Natella2020
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