Australia


Australia
Why is Australia called Australia? From the early sixteenth century, European philosophers and mapmakers assumed a great southern continent existed south of Asia. They called this hypothetical place Terra Australis, Latin for 'southern land'. The first European contact with Australia was in the early seventeenth century, when Dutch explorers touched on parts of the Australian continent. As a result of their explorations, that part of the mainland lying west of the meridian which passes through Torres Strait was named Nova Hollandia (Latin for 'New Holland'). In April 1770 Captain James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour reached the southern land. Cook entered the word Astralia (misspelt thus) in his journal the following August. However he did so only in reference to an earlier seeker of the southern land, the Portuguese-born navigator Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, who in 1606 had named the New Hebrides Austrialis de Spiritu Santo. Cook says: The Islands discover'd by Quiros call'd by him Astralia del Espiritu Santo lays in this parallel but how far to the East is hard to say. Cook himself called the new continent New Holland, a name that acknowledges the early Dutch exploration; the eastern coast he claimed for Britain and called New South Wales. The first written record ofAustralia (an anglicised form of Terra Australis) as a name for the known continent did not occur until 1794. George Shaw in his Zoology of New Holland refers to: the vast Island or rather Continent of Australia, Australasia, or New Holland, which has so lately attracted... particular attention. It was Matthew Flinders, English navigator (and the first person to circumnavigate and map Australia's coastline), who first expressed a strong preference for the name Australia. He gave his reasons in 1805: It is necessary, however, to geographical propriety, that the whole body of land should be designated under one general name; on this account, and under the circumstances of the discovery of the different parts, it seems best to refer back to the original Terra Australis, or Australia; which being descriptive of its situation, having antiquity to recommend it, and no reference to either of the two claiming nations, is perhaps the least objectionable that could have been chosen; for it is little to apprehended, that any considerable body of land, in a more southern situation, will be hereafter discovered. To these geographical, historical and political reasons for preferring the name, he adds in his 1814 account of his voyages that Australia is 'agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth'. Australia was championed too by Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810, who was aware of Flinders' preference and popularised the name by using it in official dispatches to London. He writes in 1817 of: the Continent of Australia, which I hope will be the Name given to this country in future, instead of the very erroneous and misapplied name, hitherto given it, of 'New Holland', which properly speaking only applies to a part of this immense Continent. With Macquarie's kickstart Australia eventually proved to be the popular choice. Although the name New Holland continued alongside it for some time, by 1861 William Westgarth noted that `the old term New Holland may now be regarded as supplanted by that happier and fitter one of Australia'.

Australian idioms. 2014.

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