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Orange jacket Postcard autumn leavesToday is Banjo Paterson’s birthday, and as we have already covered his name, I thought it would be interesting to look at the name of his birthplace.

At the time of Paterson’s birth, his parents were living at Buckinbah Station, near the town of Yeoval (then known as Buckinbah). Because of the station’s isolation, Banjo’s mother Rose went to stay with her aunt and uncle, Rose and John Templer, at their homestead Narrambla, and it was here that she gave birth to her son. Narrambla is about 2 miles from the centre of Orange, and today lies on the city’s outskirts. Rose herself was born on a homestead near Orange, so it was rather a family tradition.

Orange is a city in the Central West region of New South Wales. It was founded in the early 1820s as a convict settlement, and farmers began settling in the area in 1829. The first discovery of gold in Australia was made in 1851 near Orange, leading to the gold rush. Orange became a trading centre for gold, and continued growing due to its good position for agriculture. It was declared a city in 1946. Orange is known for its fruit growing, especially apples, pears and stone fruits; ironically it is too cool to grow oranges in Orange. It is also a thriving wine making area, and has both gold and copper mining. It is a sister city to Orange in California.

Orange was first called Blackman’s Swamp, after John Blackman, the guide who brought the first explorers there. The name was changed to Orange by the Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell, in honour of William, Prince of Orange. Mitchell and the Prince had both been aides-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War in Spain in the early 19th century. The Prince of Orange later became the first King of the Netherlands.

The Prince’s title originally came from the Principality of Orange in the south of France. It began life as a settlement called Arausio, named after a local Celtic water god; the god’s name is said to mean “temple”, meaning the temples that are on the forehead, not a temple as in a building for worship.

The town’s name was corrupted into Orange, and by the Middle Ages, conflated with the word orange, which comes from the Sanskrit for “orange tree”, naranga. The colour was named after the fruit, and first used this way in the 16th century.

As a personal name, Orange has a longer history than you might imagine, for the girl’s names Orenge and Orengia are found in the 13th century. As this predates the name for the fruit, their etymology is extremely uncertain, and possibly has the same source as the French town, which first became a principality of the Holy Roman Empire in the 12th century.

The surname Orange is either from the place name, or derived from the female name, and when the English name Orange appears in the early 17th century, it may have been after the surname. The name first arises in Devon, and in the beginning was exclusively given to girls, although the name became unisex after William III of England, or William of Orange, gave it a masculine feel.

As a first name, Orange is extremely rare in Australian records, and given to only a few girls, but as a middle name is much more common, and given to boys in almost equal numbers as girls (the middle name Orange was sometimes combined with William in the case of boys, showing that William of Orange still had some naming clout).

Colour names for girls are popular at the moment, with many little girls named Scarlet or Jade; tree names such as Olive and Willow are in the girls’ Top 100, surnames such as Marlowe and Quinn are fashionable for girls, and it’s not unusual to see baby girls named after European cities, such as London or Vienna. Orange seems a more vibrant continuation of these trends. Indeed, you could see it as a hyper juiced-up Clementine.

Orange is such a bright, outgoing, fun colour that it seems very cheerful as a person’s name, but it also has a more serious side, because orange is connected to religion and spirituality. There’s a real yin/yang, East/West dichotomy with the name Orange. Is it as crazy as a clown’s wig? Or as serene as a meditating Buddhist monk?

Orange fruit gains its colour from carotenes, the same thing which makes deciduous leaves turn orange. By chance, the city of Orange is known for its spectacular displays of autumn leaves, and it is therefore known as “The Colour City” (also a play on its name). You might see Orange as a name that evokes the changing of the seasons, and the turn of the year.

Although Orange started life as a girl’s name, it did become unisex, and is so rare that it could be worn by either boys or girls. If you are shy about using this vivid name, it would make an eye-catching middle.

Orange is a bold choice as a baby name, though not without shades of subtlety, and it celebrates Australian geography and history. I think Orange is one of the more distinctive of the patriotic names, and has a real tang to it.

Name Combinations for Orange

Orange Beatrice, Orange Eliza, Orange Lily, Orange May, Orange Ruby, Orange Victoria

Brothers for Orange

Eden, Hartley, Fitzroy, Paterson, Sunny, Tennyson

Sisters for Orange

Audley, Breeza, Corindi, Junee, Kendall, Marinna

Note: Name combinations from historical documents; just for fun, sibsets include names of other towns in New South Wales

POLL RESULT: Orange received an approval rating of only 27% – the lowest-rated featured name of 2013, and the only one to score less than 50%. 40% of people hated the name Orange, and nobody loved it.

(Picture shows a postcard from the city of Orange)

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