What’s in a name? Quite a lot these days according to Robert Drewe


There’s more consonants and vowels in modern names than ever before, and in weirder combintations – or at least that’s what the sports commentators reckon, writes Robert Drewe.

Jim, a crusty old sports announcer of my acquaintance, was celebrating his retirement at the pub. “I’m glad to be out of it,” he said. “Tennis nearly did me in. I’d break into a sweat when the Wimbledon or Open results came to hand.”

Samantha Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt were the last Australian players whose names he felt comfortable saying on air. “Then suddenly Thanasi Kokkinakis and Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Gavrilova were winning matches. As for the internationals, I managed Sharapova OK, but the women began to be called Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza.”

The men were no easier. “I always struggled with Vasek Pospisil. It sounds even worse if you break it down into syllables and say it slowly. Just quietly, I always hoped he’d be out in the first round.”

He grappled with Phillip Kohlschreiber, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Mikhail Youzhny. “As for Nick Kyrgios, with him being Australian and always in the news, I had to manage it, but it wasn’t easy.”

Strangely, Jim could pronounce those names now, even after a few beers. But it was a different matter on air. “It’s a whole new world,” he said, since the beginning of his broadcasting career in the days of the pronounceable champions, Laver, Emerson, Newcombe, Hoad and Rosewall.  The same with the women. Margaret Smith became Margaret Court, so no worries there. And Yvonne Goolagong had a comfortable beat to it.”

Not the best possible name for a sportsman?

Above: Not the best possible name for a sportsman?

Peter, an old newspaper sportswriter, interrupted him. “What are you whingeing about? At least you didn’t have to write their bloody names down correctly. Sport now takes twice as long to write. Especially football stories,” he complained.

“Take the two rugbys. Most of the league and union players are Pacific Islanders. You know what that means – apostrophes everywhere: Manu Ma’u, Kirisome Auva’a, Sione and Pat Mata’uta, Ben Te’o and Angus Ta’avao. And you try spelling Apisai Koroisau or Sio Siua Taulkeiaho or Dallin Watene-Zelezniak right first time! Typing out the their playing lists each week is a full day’s work.”

“At least you didn’t have to say Dallin Whatsisname,” grumbled Jim. “Bring back the old Anglo names.”

“You must be joking!” said Peter. “They’re even more confusing because they catch you napping. Take the AFL. It’s chocka with Anglo names but now they’re spelled funny. There are even 17 current players with the same first name but varying spellings!”

He listed them. There was one Jaryd and one Jarred, two Jarrods, three Jarryds, three Jareds, five Jarrads, and their cousins Sharrod and Jarryn. “I don’t care if a boy called Jarrod kicks ten goals and has 50 touches, he doesn’t get my vote,” Peter snorted.

He mourned the days when you could field an Aussie Rules team called Ray, Ron, Doug, Bob, Alan, Geoff, Clive, Dennis, Neil, Keith, Colin, Roy, Steve, Ted, , Peter, Bill and two Johns. “No spelling problems there.”

He moaned on. Why were the parents of the current crop so in love with the letter Y that they insisted on turning it into the sixth vowel? “So now we’ve got Ayce, Blayne, Arryn, Claye, Ayden, Cadeyn, Danyle, Dayne, Jarryn, Jayden, Tayte, Kamdyn and Kyal.”

Their grizzles recalled the entertaining AFL name-analysis column begun in The Monthly magazine several years ago by Peter Cronin. Along the lines of Cronin’s column, these recent players could fill the following categories:

Names suitable for a faded aristocrat or equerry: Will Hoskin-Elliott, George Horlin-Smith, Henry Slattery, Toby Nankervis, James Polkinghorne, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Piers Flanagan, Jasper Pittard, Thomas Bellchambers, Angus Monfries.

Names suitable for bushrangers and plucky English heroes: Jack Darling, Jack Watts, Jack Grimes, Jack Redden, Jack Crisp, Jack Frost, Jack Redpath. Also Tom Rockcliff — and Patrick Dangerfield, of course.


 Names suitable for rascally Dickensian criminals: Sam Grimley, Sam Siggins, Sam Darley, Sam Rowe, Sam Docherty, Sam Kerridge.

Names that leave one feeling curiously unsettled:

Tyson Goldsack, Dayne Zorko, Jordan De Goey, Kirk Ugle, Steele Sidebottom, Blaine Boekhorst, Joshua Prudden, Travis Boak, Tomas Bugg, Llane Spaanderman, Alipate Carlile, Kristian Jaksch.

 Names suitable for an outer-suburban outdoor wedding venue: Beau Waters, Oliver Wines.


Surnames suitable for a cocktail incorporating Campari or Amaretto: Cassisi, Firrito, Morabito, Deledio, Bontempelli, Menegola, Fantasia.

Surnames suitable for middle-European smoked meats: Schoenmakers, Schroder, Leuenberger, Petrenko, Malceski, Karnezis.

Names suitable for the location of an English murder mystery: Campbell Heath, Harrison Marsh, Easton Wood, Bradley Hill, Dean Towers.

As his retirement party wore on, Jim the ex-broadcaster revealed his biggest fear – spoonerisms. “Once you worry about them, you can’t help saying them. Nat Fyfe always bothered me. And Jed Bews, Dane Rampe and Matt Shaw. I was really pleased when Karmichael Hunt gave the game away.”

Robert Drewe’s latest book, The Beach, an Australian Passion, is published by the National Library of Australia and is available here: the-beach-an-australian-passion His other recent books The Local Wildlife and Swimming to the Moon are on sale here: penguin.com.au





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