April 28, 2021
This week’s Economist magazine has an article about some changes underfoot in Australia, where the names for various geographical features, which have reflected an ugly historical colonial mindset with which Australians are now coming to terms, are being changed to reflect their native origins. In 1993, for instance, Ayers Rock, the signature monolith in the center of the country, was renamed Uluru. More recently, the King Leopold Ranges in Western Australia — named for the Belgian ruler — have become the Wunaamin-Miliwundi mountains. And the name of John Batman, a founder of Melbourne who hunted and shot Indigenous Australians, has been removed from a park, which is now called Gumbri (“white dove”).
Understandable protests in Queensland are underway, aimed at changing the name of Mount Nigger, and a group of Indigenous Australians want to change the name of Boydtown (and the national park named after Benjamin Boyd), named for a Scottish settler who trafficked slaves from Pacific islands.
Meanwhile, the company that owns a popular cheese called Coon has announced that it will rebrand the product as Cheer. What’s particularly interesting in this case is that the cheese was apparently named after Edward William Coon, a pioneering cheesemaker who, according to Wikipedia, patented a cheese-ripening process that eschewed pasteurization, instead retaining the live bacteria to produce a cheese that was said to be more easily digested and have a more attractive flavor. Nevertheless, according to the CEO of Coon’s parent company, changing the name is consistent with the company’s policy of “treating people with respect and without discrimination.”