The Baby Name Anzac

I didn’t know that Anzac Day existed until a few days ago, when I read about people named Anzac at the blog Waltzing More Than Matilda.

Anzac Day is celebrated in both Australia and New Zealand every April 25.

ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps” — the group of soldiers Australia and New Zealand sent to fight in WWI’s Gallipoli Campaign, which began on April 25, 1915.

The campaign failed, but the efforts of these soldiers gave the two fledgling nations a much-needed sense of identity, and pride.

As a baby name, “Anzac” has been used more often as a middle name than as a first name, and it’s given more often to boys than to girls.

Here are some specifics on the usage of Anzac (and Gallipoli, and Dardanelles) courtesy of the National Library of Australia:

In Victoria for instance, in 1915, seven children were given the name Anzac, one with the name Gallipoli and 24 with Dardanelles or a variation. However, 1916 was the boom year with 153 children named ‘Anzac’ before a rapid drop to just five in 1917, three in 1918, four in 1919 and four in 1920.

All other states also recorded the births of Anzacs with South Australia having 95 named children between 30 May 1915 and 25 April 1928. 24 registrations were made in 1915. This nearly doubled to 46 in 1916 but dropped to just two in 1917, eight in 1918, five in 1919 and a trickle of others to just one born on Anzac Day in 1928. In addition one child in South Australia in each of the years 1915, 1916 and 1918 was named Gallipoli whereas the name Dardanella or similar was given to 19, 43, 10 and four in each of the years 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 respectively.

Across the ditch in New Zealand there was a similar trend. In 1915 there were nine children named Anzac with two as first names, four with the name of Gallipoli (one as first name) and 38 with the name of Dardanelles, Dardanella or similar. The following year again saw a relative spike in numbers with 97 children now named Anzac (six as first name), four with the name Gallipoli (one as first) and 32 with the name of Dardanelles or a variation.

Here are some WWI-era examples of given names that include “Anzac” (stolen from the Waltzing More Than Matilda post, with some details added by me):

GirlsBoys
Alma Anzac Myrtle (b. 1916)Anzac Gallipoli Claude (b. 1916)
Annie AnzacAnzac Kitchener
Anzac Cavel VerdonLalbert Anzac
Clover AnzacValentine Anzac
Dardandella Anzac (b. 1916)Vivian Anzac Jasper
Maple AnzacWilliam Anzac France (b. 1916)
Verdun Anzac Jane (b. 1917; went by “Verna”)Winston Anzac (b. 1916)

And here are a few extra examples of WWI-era Anzacs:

So…is “Anzac” still an appropriate name for a baby, now that we’re in the 21st century?

Some people don’t think so.

In 2004, Melbourne couple Reimana Pirika and Gaylene George (of New Zealand and Australia, respectively) decided to name their newborn son Anzac. This angered veterans, who saw it as improper use of the acronym.

Australian politician Danna Vale’s opinion was pretty interesting:

She said that after World War I some children were named Anzac in the “spirit of the times”.

“Over the passage of time views have changed, and I, too, encourage the family to consider the concerns of the ex-service community on the use of Anzac as a child’s name.”

Ms. Vale said she would speak to the RSL about action that could be taken to stop Anzac being used as a name.

Are certain baby names only appropriate in the “spirit of the times”? Do they become inappropriate after too many years/generations have elapsed? What do you think?

Sources:

Image: Coloured illustration of Anzac troops after the fighting at Gallipoli during World War I, State Library of Queensland

3 thoughts on “The Baby Name Anzac

  1. I’m Australian, and I think Anzac is fine for a name. I’d never choose it, but I think, just like other names that are really symbolic of a social struggle they belong to everyone in society, not just a few.

    Other names that are highly emotive: Martin Luther, Roosevelt, Lincoln (in the 19th Century), Liberty and Independence and Lafayette and Freedom and Philadelphia (American war of Independence), Sophonisba and Sojourner for feminists, Leninova (early 20th Century Russia), Ardenne/Ardennes (after WW1), Shiloh or Beauregard or Sumter during/after Civil War, or the number of kids called Wellington or Waterloo after defeat of Napoleon.

  2. Danna Vale was known for being a bit of a nutter, and in this case even the RSL realised they had gone too far. Because of this story though, I have seen lots of people falsely claim that the name ANZAC is banned as a baby name.

    But yes, I have heard that argument, that only those who have fought for Australia or New Zealand during wartime should be allowed to call their children ANZAC.

    It’s definitely on the list of controversial names.

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