A man called Mary is one of the reasons why I love Australians.

elephants walk over harbour bridge 1932
Elephants walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to help convince Australians it was safe to use the new train service that took passengers across the bridge. Circa 1932. It is an incredibly scenic couple of minutes, with the Sydney Opera House and the ferry terminal on one side and Luna Park and the many waterside suburbs on the other side.

Do you have a nickname? I didn’t really have one growing up, although close family and friends often call me Ali. Does that qualify as a nickname? Anyway, when I was in my late teens I had a boyfriend who insisted on calling me ‘Bunny’, which I thought was just ridiculous.

In Australia, nicknames are huge, or at least they were, but I wonder if they’re going out of fashion these days. I remember when I first married and moved here in 1988, my then husband told me about his good friend, Mary, who he had missed while living in NYC, where he had been posted by the Australian government.

He went on to share many amazing stories about Mary, including some memorable field hockey road trips in their younger days. I was so confused. Either Mary was a man or this woman really loved beer and the company of sweaty men. That’s a fairly unique woman in my view.

So I cut in, ‘Hang on a minute. Is Mary a guy or a girl?’

My husband replied, shocked this was even a question, ‘Of course Mary’s a guy! He’s a mate.’ (Imagine an Australian accent.)

‘So why on earth are you calling him Mary?!’

‘Because his name is George!’

I failed to find that answer all that illuminating.


And funnily enough, the reason why George was called Mary was forgotten but it had stuck and no one called the man George, except his mother.

Sure enough, after we moved to Australia we arranged to meet up with a few of my husband’s old mates at a pub. As we walked in he called out ‘Mary!’ to a man who looked exactly like a lumberjack sitting at the bar and greetest us with the biggest bearded grin.

My ex-husband also had a pal called ‘Blue’. Naturally, Blue was a redhead. I think you get the picture.

My former partner’s last name is Dickinson and he, his brother, his father and grandfather all went to the same school in Sydney where of course they were all gleefully called Dicko — over three generations. Aussies are a consistent bunch!

Copyright 2017 Alicia Mayer. All rights reserved.