The teacher started roll call and young Australia braced for the inevitable.
"Australia Agentina? .. um, Australia Argentina?"
Then he braced for the tittering of his classmates as they turned to stare at him, this stranger from New Zealand who had landed in their midst.
"That's not a typo, correct?" the teacher would invariably look perplexed, trying to determine whether this was a joke or not.
"That's my name, ma'am."
More heads would turn at his accent, so out-doorsy and funky and all the kids' eyes would get wide.
"That's a very unusual name. Class, please welcome our new student Australia Argentina to our community."
The kids would get bored and turn back to passsing notes and shooting spitwads, but during recess they'd all gather around and ask about kangaroos and Crocodile Dundee. He'd try to explain that he wasn't from Australia, but Kiwi-land New Zealand. Most of the time the other students would shake their head and have to admit in their hopefully-soon-to-be-learned geographic ignorance that they'd never heard of it.
"Lately, New Zealand has had a big resurgence. You can thank that mostly on Lord of the Rings, which was shot in New Zealand." For most Americans, the Kiwi accent is like melted butter - many of us could just listen to him go on about his name and homeland for ages.
Growing up though, having a weird name of two countries, and then being from New Zealand and definitely NOT Australian was a real pain in the butt for Australia. He supposes that his parents thought they were being whimsical for their much bigger and more famous neighbor. That or they were making some political statement, of which he has no idea because he's never asked.
What's that? He NEVER asked why his parents named him Australia? The story gets even more intriguing when he explains that his parents changed their last name from his father's boring name of Ausberger to Argentina. Neither of his parents have ever been to Argentina. They are both from some vague Teutonic-Hellenistic lineage, but hardly enough to warrant throwing away their European ancestry in a fit of pique. No, they just changed their name because they wanted to.
"Alcoholics Anonymous wasn't really big in New Zealand until more recently, but my initial became another source of amusement for the playground. AA. Luckily, my parents at least had the decency to not give me a middle name like 'Aurora' or even Adam."
When asked what his his middle name is, he shrugs. "I don't have one. My birth certificate just says 'Australia Argentina'. My sister's name is Brazil Argentina. Go figure. Maybe they wanted to work their way down the alphabet?" He cracks a wicked grin.
Australia's parents, with birthing their children with names of far away lands, would give the impression that they were avid world travelers, but truth be told they had never stepped foot off their own little island except for one trip to Sydney long before Australia was born. Did they find an affinity for down under that they had to name their first born son after it? Australia shakes his head - he never asked.
“For most Americans, the Kiwi accent is like melted butter - many of us could just listen to him go on about his name and homeland for ages.”
When he was six, he caught a nasty virus that wouldn't go away. Learning of a specialist in Florida, little Australia was shipped off to live with some distant cousins. The doctors cured him, and was surprised when his parents didn't seem to be in any hurry to have him get back home. So he made the best of it, settled in with his remote cousins and immersed himself into American culture.
When he was 16, he desperately wanted to get his driver's license, and the DMV gave him a hard time because they thought he had phony paperwork. At college the ragging was diminished, but he still got teased about it. At his first real job working in a big law firm, he simply became known as "AA".
"I really and truly hated being called AA. Girls who didn't know me thought I was a recovering alcoholic. I had to explain time and again that I like a good stiff drink after a long day, but my nickname was not because I was a fanatic one way or the other about drinking."
Has he ever considered changing his name to something more normal? Like Arther or Aaron? or Billy or Joe?
"Oh HELLLLLL no," he says in his best gangsta' rap imitation and exaggerated crossing of the arms. "At least people remember me this way after they meet me."
When asked what he's going to name his children, his eyes light up. "I have to pass the torture on, right? So see here, I'm thinking that Broomhilda if it's a girl, Derrie Axi if it's a boy." As soon as he says the words everyone gasps, waiting to see if it's another one of his jokes.
Again he smiles that evil little smile. "How about Sid and Nancy? That's nice and normal..."
Thank you Australia, for sharing your Story with us.~~~
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© 2009 by Kristen Kuhns and Story of My Life®