If you are the kind of person who likes to laugh at bum jokes, double entendres and words that sound silly when you say them, then consider today a red-letter day. Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else: The Story Behind Australia’s Weird and Wonderful Place Names by Eamon Evans, and kindly provided to us for review by Hachette Australia, is chockers with ridiculously named localities. Even better than that is the thought that people actually have to live in these places, write these ridiculous names on official forms and adopt a sudden whisper when innocently asked, “So where are you from?”
Before I go much further, let’s see the blurb from Goodreads:
The stories behind Australia’s many, many strange, inappropriate and downright hilarious place names.
From Dismal Swamp to Useless Loop, Intercourse Island to Dead Mans Gully, Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else, Australia has some of the strangest, funniest, weirdest and most out-of-place names going – now described and explained in one humorous and fascinating book.
Australia’s vast spaces and irreverent, larrikin history have given us some of the best place names in the world. Ranging from the less than positive (Linger and Die Hill, NSW), to the indelicate (Scented Knob, WA), the idiotic (Eggs and Bacon Bay, TAS) to the inappropriate and the just plain fascinating, Mount Buggery To Nowhere Else is a toponymical journey through this nation of weird and wonderful places.
And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else by Eamon Evans:
1. If you can think of a phrase containing juvenile sexual innuendo, chances are somewhere in Australia bears its name
2. Accomplished sailor he may have been, but possessed of an imagination, wherein the naming of landmarks is concerned, Captain Cook was not.
3. Except for one instance in which the English name-bestower chose to commemorate having had a pleasant chat with Australia’s original inhabitants, not only were Australia’s indigenous people subjected to displacement and continual violence, they also had to suffer the indignity of such violence being commemorated in various place names. (Poisoned Waterhole Creek, I’m looking at you)
4. A remarkable number of places in this great land have been named for lost or deceased livestock.
5. Whether referring to door handles or hilly outcrops, one can’t help but giggle at the word “knob”.
Who would have thought Australia would have so many silly and surprising place names that a book could be written on the topic? Well, everyone, actually. It’s pretty common knowledge, I should think, that our great southern land is peppered with various knobs, titties and dancing dicks. Actually, I’m pretty sure there’s only one of the latter. But if you thought that the only silliness in Australian place names involved jokes about body parts, then you will be pleased to know that imbecilic naming styles stretch far beyond such base, juvenile humour.
Take Bogan Gate in New South Wales, for instance. If you are from the northern hemisphere, and have no idea why this name is funny, Google has this definition to enlighten you:
nounAUSTRALIAN/NZ informal derogatory
an uncouth or unsophisticated person, regarded as being of low social status.“some bogans yelled at us from their cars”
And to help you out further, here is a picture of one:
And by God, don’t we all wish we had a gate to keep her out.
Then there’s Little Donkey Woman Swamp and Tom Ugly’s Point, both of which, I hope, aren’t just false advertising. I also wonder whether the residents of Beardy Plains, and the associated Beardy Hill and Beardy River have considered making some cash off the back of the hipster trend. My absolute favourite though, has to be Linger and Die Hill in New South Wales. It’s just such an evocative name. And at least, if the worst happens, the locals can always say, “Well don’t say we didn’t warn you!”
The book is divided into chapters based around each state and territory, with place names listed in alphabetical order. I read the book from front to back, which, by the end, became a bit of a struggle, so I would suggest flicking back and forth as takes your fancy, or to hone in on one state or territory at a time. Similarly, there are a bunch of places with ordinary sounding names like Macquarie and Churchill, and in many cases, the stories behind their naming are equally unexciting.
For some of the place names, the origin of the name is unknown or has little, if anything, to do with the way the name sounds which can be a tad disappointing. While it was quite interesting to know that Beauty Point is actually named after a cow named Beauty, and not the stunning natural features of the area, it was less fascinating to know that Smellie Inlet is just named after a bloke whose surname was Smellie.
A couple of the stories seem downright dubious, to be honest. The naming of Adavale to commemorate the fact that a lady named Ada once lost her veil nearby reeks of the old bull’s leavings for instance.
Overall though, this is a fun, sometimes shocking, sometimes disheartening but mostly quite amusing foray into Australian place names as well as Australian history.
Here’s a quick test though, to see if you are the right type of reader for this book.
Did you laugh at any of the above?
What about smirk?
Then this book is for you.
Excuse me while I go giggle into my cup of tea over Mount Meharry.
Until next time,