Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Collective Names (and NOT Collectivism)

Last week I read Bill Bryson's very funny book Down Under (called In a Sunburned Country in the US). It embarassed me what this man knows about Australia that I don't. Nullabor is not an aboriginal word, for instance.

One thing that has stuck with me is that he points out that people who live in Sydney are called Sydneysiders, and that this is somewhat unique. Is it that unique? Surely there is another city that calls it inhabitants "-siders"?

Why am I called a Sydneysider? How did this happen? Did some editor of the Sydney Morning Herald wake up one morning after a particularly troubled nights sleep, make his way into work, and send off a memo to all staff? - "...henceforth, this publication will refer to the population of Sydney as Sydneysiders..."

Was it a disparaging term used by Melburnians (or Melbournians - I believe there is some debate)? - "...come on children, stop that. You're behaving like a bunch of Sydneysiders." Or possibly it was used by people from the North Shore of Sydney, referring to the poor people on the south side of the harbour.

For that matter, where does any city inhabitant name come from. Other cities don't seem to follow any pattern: Melburnian, Brisbanite, Canberran, Berliner, Londoner, Parisian, New Yorker, Mancunian, Glaswegian. Where on earth does all this come from? Who invented these?

Personally, I don't even know the terminology for this type of word - a word that refers to the inhabitant of a city. Dweller-nom maybe?

The mystery deepens further when you consider collective names of animals, for which numerous, conflicting lists appear on the internet (though personally I'll stick with wikipedia): a herd of cows, a murder of crows, a flange of babboons, etc.

Someone needs to be held responsible for this mess.


sima said...

Firstly down under is a great book. I read it a few years ago and loved it.
He also has a few others, Val went to one of Bryson's book readings when he was in Sydney a few months ago.
Secondly, what side of the bridge does Packer live?

Mic said...

Ooh, ooh, Mr Cotter. I've found one.