A recent post over at Waltzing More Than Matilda mentioned Ned Kelly — someone I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while now.
I discovered Ned’s name several years ago in an article about baby name laws in New South Wales, where names can be rejected for being offensive, obscene, too long, and “contrary to the public interest,” among other things.
Ned Kelly was one of the off-limits names listed in the article. This confused me, as “Ned Kelly” seemed like such an innocuous combination. What was I missing?
Well, turns out the name isn’t so innocuous after all if you’re in Australia.
Edward “Ned” Kelly (1854-1880) was a notorious Irish-Australian bushranger. Here’s how Anna of Waltzing More Than Matilda describes him:
Ned Kelly was the son of an Irish convict, and gained notoriety as a horse thief and cattle rustler before being convicted of bank robbing and murder. He was hanged on November 11 1880. He looms large in the Australian imagination, and is widely seen as a folk hero, and a symbol of Irish-Australian resistance against the ruling classes and police corruption. There is in the Ned Kelly legend a particular type of Australian masculinity which is admired: physically powerful, ballsy, defiant, daring, anti-authority, and an under-dog. The phrase, As game as Ned Kelly, is the ultimate praise for bravery, and his legend has spawned countless folk stories and ballads – not to mention a few films.
The closest U.S. equivalent I can think of is Jesse James, but no U.S. state I know of has banned the name Jesse James, either as an all-in-one first (e.g., Jessejames) or as a first-middle combo.
For all the Australians out there: Would you be shocked/offended if you met a young child named Ned Kelly?