The great name change list encompasses all facets of life, not just the
names of countries and cities (Stalingrad, Leningrad etc), so send in
your submissions with explanations for the change to boss


Bank of NSW: Changed its name to Westpac.

Chiquita: Renamed from United Fruit Company, notorious for putting the banana in ‘banana republic’.

Computing Tabulating Recording (CTR) Corporation: became IBM, International Business Machines Corporation in 1924.

Dotcommers: Dropped the .com from their names after the tech wreck.

Farben: After the war, the Americans broke up the giant German chemical
company, thinking their own companies could then dominate the globe.
The four companies rising from the ashes were BASF, Hoechst, Bayer and
Agfa that went on to dominate their respective industries.

Fried Chicken: Officially changed its name to KFC as Kentucky Fried
Chicken doesn’t sound too good for the cholesterol levels.

Cash Register Company: founded in 1884 to produce the first mechanical
cash registers, changed its name in 1974 to NCR Corporation.

Philip Morris: The world’s biggest tobacco company changed its name to Altria in November 2001.

Carbide: Taken over by Dow, which helped distance it from the Bhopal
Disaster, currently being commemorated in its 20th anniversary.

Medical Protection: After going into voluntary administration in the
wake of the HIH collapse, the insurer didn’t change its name, but
started to abbreviate it to United instead of UMP.

The UK nuclear reactor which had a fire in 1957, leading to serious
radioactive discharges. Dozens of people inside and outside the plant
were exposed to extremely high doses, and so were the local dairy herds
for miles around. Millions of litres of milk had to be poured away. Its
name was changed to Sellafield. It worked for a few years, then there
were leaks and accidents at Sellafield, so the “good work” was undone.
They didn’t bother changing it again.


Parties: After the collapse of Communism, many parties rebranded
themselves. For example, the Communist Party of Italy became the Party
of the Democratic Left, the East German Communists became the Party of
Democratic Socialism (then again their country had been called the
German Democratic Republic), and in Australia the Socialist Workers
Party became the Democratic Socialist Party (publisher of Green Left

Liberal Party: Liberals (Free Traders) renamed
Nationalists to take in Labor defectors (including ex-Labor PM Billy
Hughes) and then United Australia Party to take in yet more Labor
defectors, then re-invented by Menzies postwar as the Liberal Party
(imaginative name!).

National Party: Changed from Country Party in a futile attempt to expand their influence.


Blumberg (SA): Had its name chaged to Birdwood during WWI, when the South Australian parliament’s House of Assembly sought the alteration of more than sixty
place names of “foreign enemy origin”.

Lane: The lane in Ultimo, Sydney was known as Schlinkers Lane until
1917 and was later enclosed by the AML&F woolstore that burnt down
in 1992. The site is now a unit development called Bullecourt.

Burma: The former British colony changed its name to Myanmar in 1989 (however,
since it was changed by a military government, which is not recognised
by UK or USA, they don’t recognise the change, either).

Since 1505 the Portuguese and the Dutch colonised the island at various
times and to varying degrees until the British arrived in 1796 and took
over the entire island. Coffee, tea, cinnamon and coconut plantations
(worked by Tamil laborers imported from southern India) sprang up.
Ceylon finally achieved full independence in 1948 and in 1972 the
country became a republic and made Sri Lanka its official name.

(SA): The Adelaide suburb Chicago changed its name to Kilburn in 1930
to avoid association with Al Capone et al. The footy side stayed with
its nickname though… the Chics.

Dutch New Guinea: Was
renamed Irian Jaya when it was incorporated into Indonesia. Lately our
media has started calling the territory West Papua, reflecting
separatist aspirations, even though ‘papua’ is an Indonesian word
meaning ‘fuzzy’.

Empire Vale (Vic): Renamed from German
Creek during WW1. There are a number of similar examples, especially in
South Australia, where they have been often returned to their original

European cities: Europe is littered with place name
changes, Danzig become Gdansk, Koenigsberg became Kaliningrad, Brunn
become Brno, Constantinople became Istanbul, etc etc.

Grampians (Vic): The mountains were to have their name changed to the
aboriginal Gariwerd, but the decision backfired when it was pointed out
that “Gariwerd”, reportedly said to Major Thomas Mitchell when he asked
what the hills were called, could easily have meant “I don’t understand
you” or “Go away!” since Mitchell had no local language speakers with
him and there are none left now.

Germanton (NSW): Had its name chaged to Holbrook in 1915.

Hahndorf (SA): The
historic Adelaide Hills town (named after Danish seaman Captain Hahn)
was called Ambleside, during WWI, but had its name changed back to Hahndorf in 1935.

Hergott Springs (SA): Had its name chaged to Marree, on the Old Ghan Trail in outback SA, during WWI.

Indian cities: Classical cities such as Bombay and Madras have all lost their well known names.

Samani Peak (Tajikistan): Formerly the highest mountain in the USSR, it
was named Stalin Peak by its discoverers, then renamed Communism Peak
after Destalinisation, and on independence renamed again after a
medieval Tajik ruler.

Jesselton: The capital of Sabah, a
state of Malaysia on the island of Borneo, used to be called Jesselton,
in honour of one of its former British Governors (Sir George Jessel).
It was changed to a Malaysian name, Kota Kinabalu, in 1968.

Stuhl and the Berliner Bun (SA): Kaiser Stuhl, the highest peak in the
Barossa Range was deemed “an objectionable name” and renamed Mt.
Kitchener in 1918 (after Lord Kitchener of Kartoumh). It was restored
to the Kaiser’s Seat in 1975. Similarly the Berliner bun was renamed
the Kitchener bun in WW1.

Lambing Flat (NSW): Originally
part of a squatters run known as Burrangong Station, Lambing Flat was
the place where Chinese miners were run off their diggings by European
miners, giving rise to the NSW Chinese Immigration Restriction Act and
later the White Australia Policy. Modern day Young is avowedly
anti-racist and any white supremacists looking for a geographical focal
point would be wise to look elsewhere.

Langmeil (SA): The Barossa village was named after the village of
Langmeil in Germany, had it’s name changed to Bilyara – a name later
picked up by a German wine maker in the 1960s and which lives on as
part of the Wolf Blass legacy, especially in translation from the
aboriginal language… Eaglehawk. After WW2, the part of Germany
which included Langmeil became Poland, and the Germans were expelled.
The original village of Langmeil is now called Okunin.

Lobethal (SA): Had its name changed to Tweedvale in 1917, and back to Lobethal in 1935.

Lucas Heights (Sydney): known as Barden Ridge by many of its inhabitants because of the nuclear reactor.

Territory changes: Any number of Aboriginal towns in the NT have had
their names changed, Roper River to Ngukurr, Snake Bay to Milikapiti,
Port Keats to Wadeye and so on.

Palmerston: The capital of
the Northern Territory was first named Palmerston, after British Prime
Minister, Lord Palmerston, when it was established 1869, however, from
1912 the town became officially known by its popular name of Darwin.
The name stems from Port Darwin, which was discovered and named in 1839
by Captains Wickham and Stokes in the HMS Beagle, after Charles Darwin
who had traveled with them on a previous voyage.

Persia: Was renamed Iran in 1935.

Bay (Vic): The beach, south of Melbourne, was originally named Shark
Bay with good reason as the local abattoir discharged regularly into
the creek running into the bay. It was renamed Safety Beach to attract
the holiday crowds, or at least not scare them off.

Has never been colonised by a foreign power, and in the 19th century,
Siam remained independent by deftly playing off one European power
against another. However, in 1932 a peaceful coup converted the country
into a constitutional monarchy and in 1939 Siam became Thailand.

Petersburg (Russian: Sankt Peterburg): Named after its founder, Peter
the Great’s patron saint (or really after himself!). In World War I,
Tsar Nicholas II thought this sounded too German (though Peter was
actually inspired by the Dutch), and it was renamed Petrograd. After
the Revolution and Lenin’s death, it was renamed Leningrad. After the
collapse of Communism, it has become St Petersburg again.

Uluru: Renamed from Ayers Rock (named after South Australian premier who never visited it), back to original Aboriginal name.

Volta: A small, poor, landlocked country in West Africa. The former
French colony became independent in 1960 and renamed itself Burkina
Faso in 1984, which translates roughly to “Land of Honest Men”, or
“Country of Honesty”.

Van Diemens Land: Now Tasmania.

Volgograd: Originally Tsaritsyn, it was renamed to Stalingrad to get rid of the
Tsarist connotation and commemorate Stalin’s defence of the city during
the Civil War. After Stalin was denounced by Khrushchev it was renamed
Volgograd after the politically neutral River Volga.


Aniston: The surname of the star of Friends was changed a few
generations ago from the Greek surname Anastakassis to the more
innocuous Aniston.

Frederick Austerlitz: Became Fred Astaire.

John Bradman: The son of Don, changed his name to John Bradsen to escape the pressures from his father’s legendary status.

Margarita Carmen Cansino: Was renamed Rita Hayworth to appeal to middle America.

Cassius Clay: Changed his ‘slave name’ to Mohammed Ali. Similarly Malcolm Little became Malcolm X.

Conrad: (this year’s ABC Boyer lecturer) surname was Konrad & his
father’s family re-spelled its name to eliminate a treasonous Teutonic

Issur Danielovitch: Became Kirk Douglas.

Norma Jean Dougherty: Became Marilyn Monroe.

Reginald Kenneth Dwight: Became Elton John.

Ramon Estevez: Became Martin Sheen.

Archibald Alexander Leach: Became Cary Grant (he may not have become a matinee idol had he kept his original name).

John Lennon: Changed his middle name from Winston to “Ono” – John Ono Lennon.

Mike McCartney: Brother of famous Beatle Paul, changing his surname to McGear.

Maurice Joseph Micklewhite: Changed his name to Michael Caine.

Marion Michael Morrison: Became John Wayne.

The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family: Renamed themselves the House of Windsor during WWI to distance themselves from their German roots.

von Battenberg family: (Including Prince Philip) renamed themselves
Mountbatten during WWI to distance themselves from their German roots.

Vladimir Illych Ulyanov: Changed his name to Lenin while on the run from the secret police to avoid arrest.

Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili: Adopted the name Stalin (“man of steel”) in about 1913.


Canola: Renamed from rape for obvious reasons.

Darwin University: When Darwin’s university was established did they
choose NTU rather than UNT because the letterhead from the Chancellor
would have read . . . It’s now Charles Darwin University, anyway.

gooseberry: Renamed Kiwi Fruit to escape racist or anti-Communist
connotations. Reportedly known in France as a vegetable mouse and in
China as a hairy goat’s testicle. Renamed from to reflect greater ambitions!

Dept of Civil Aviation: Become The Dept of Shipping and Transport, Dept
of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority, etc before being broken up to
become Air Services Australia, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Air
Safety Bureau, Dept of Regional Transport and various airport

Fruit tree tomato: Became the tamarillo to avoid confusion with the vegetable.

German Shepherds: Became Alsations post-WWI when it become unfashionable to call the dogs by their German name.

Redfern Mall: Became Surry Hills Shopping Village to sound a bit more upmarket.

of Americas: A US-run military academy, the SOA became known as School
of Assassins for its graduates’ involvement in coups and
assassinations. It was moved from Panama to Fort Bening, Georgia, and
after revelations that its curriculum had advocated torture it was
recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation (see last week’s Guardian Weekly).

Shihad: NZ
rockers renamed Pacifier after September 11 because it sounded too much
like jihad. Recently decided (like Prince) they were dummies and
reclaimed their brand.