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I’ve read quite a few odd little snippets abut names in the news, and the holidays seems like a good opportunity to share them.

The same names popular across New South Wales

Data from the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages shows that most areas followed the same name trends last year, despite cultural and ethnic differences. One of the major exceptions to the rule was the name Aaliyah, which is #77 across the state, but a Top Ten name in Blacktown, in Sydney’s western suburbs. At the public hospitals of Royal North Shore and Royal Prince Alfred, Oliver and Chloe were the most popular names; Olivia was the favourite name at Westmead, St George and Nepean hospitals, while Isabella topped the girl’s list at Randwick, Blacktown and Liverpool hospitals. Ethan was #1 in Liverpool, while the Central Coast was the only region to appreciate Cooper in significant numbers. Amelia proved an across-the-board favourite in almost every region, only failing to make the Top Ten in Newcastle, St Leonards, Central Coast and Blacktown.

Lismore bucks the trend

Despite this uniformity, up in Lismore in the state’s far north, they pride themselves on doing things a little differently, including baby names. In the Northern Rivers region, the most popular baby names are Riley and Mia (#20 and #5 in the state respectively). Cooper is the #2 boy’s name in Lismore, adding weight to the idea that it is coastal areas which tend to go for this name. Grace is #4 in Lismore, although #14 in the state.

Baby name regret, 1909 style

This is a story sent in by a reader to one of those columns where people send in their odd little stories.

The Unthank family of Somerville welcomed their baby daughter Hazel Ethel in 1909. Today Somerville is a suburb of Melbourne, but back then it was a rural orchard town. In order to register his daughter’s birth, Mr Unthank had to drive 10 km (6 miles) by horse and carriage to Hastings, a bustling seaside town (now another suburb).

On his way to the registry office, he dropped into the local pub to visit his wife’s family, who owned the pub, and share the good news. They all had a few drinks, and decided Hazel Ethel wasn’t suitable after all. They picked a new name, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and Mr Unthank continued his journey.

When Mr Unthank got home, he casually told his wife that he and her sisters had changed the baby’s name, but unfortunately he couldn’t remember what it was, as he had handed the slip of paper to the registrar and thought no more about it.

It was six weeks before they could find the time to visit their relatives again, and in the meantime, they had no idea what their daughter’s name was. They just called her Bubby. Eventually, they discovered her name was Zalie Vivienne Unthank, but for the rest of her life, Zalie was known by her family as Bub.

Perhaps not so strangely, both Hazel and Zalie now sound perfectly suitable as contemporary baby names. Do you think her dad and aunties made the right choice for 1909? And which one sounds better today?

(You can see the birth record for Zalie here, where her name is given as Zalie Vyvian).

Baby name superstitions

In a newspaper article from Tasmania dated 1936, it is claimed that in times gone by, it was considered lucky to choose a baby’s name before it was born. The name had to be chosen in the first nine days after birth, or it would be an unlucky child. The article unfortunately doesn’t say how long ago these superstitions were in effect.

The town that got its name back

This isn’t about baby names, but I checked my blog’s title, and it says it is about Australian names, not just baby or even people names.

The town of Mutchilba in far north Queensland is on the small side, but famed for its mangoes. In 1999, the town was quietly downgraded and removed from the map. The population of Mutchilba was (statistically speaking) moved to swell the ranks of nearby Dimbulah, which has the same postcode.

It’s said that life moves at a slower pace in the tropical heat, and perhaps that explains why the good people of Mutchilba failed to notice the change in status to their little town until July of this year. Perhaps nobody bought any new maps in the interim. Certainly nobody bothered telling them.

However, when the local paper published an article informing them of what had occurred, they were hopping mad, and launched a campaign to get their town back.

I’m happy to say they were successful, and as of October 12 this year, Mutchilba is now officially a town once more. Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says the State Government fast-tracked the process, and that he took personal interest in the case, being from the far north himself.

The mayor of Mutchilba is now hoping to re-launch the Mutchilba Mango Mardi Gras, the annual festival celebrating the mango harvest, as a means of highlighting the town’s unique identity.

Mutchilba has a lovely meaning in the local language – “place of many birds”.