Monday 23 August 2010

Batman, Batman, Batmania!

Batman is, of course, the name for a military officer's servant. The term derives from the old word bat meaning a packsaddle. In America, where they're far more logical about such things, the equivalent position is referred to as a dog-robber.

Batman is, of course, a unit of measurement found in Asia. Batman has varied wildly in value over the centuries and was finally redefined as 10kg when Turkey basted itself with the metric system.

Batmania is, of course, the original name of the Australian city of Melbourne. John Batman, a syphilitic farmer from Sydney, persuaded some of the natives to lease some land to him for an annual rent of two hundred handkerchiefs, a hundred knives, a hundred pounds of flour, fifty scissors,  forty blankets, thirty mirrors, thirty axes and six shirts. He then named the new settlement after himself: Batmania.

The rent was clearly exorbitant and the governor cancelled it a few years later, shot anyone who disagreed, and renamed the town Melbourne after the Viscount Melbourne who was prime minister at the time.

Batmania isn't as mad as it sounds to our surprised ears. After all, Tasmania is named after Abel Tasman.

There are no other known meanings of the word batman.

John Batman
Became a hat-man.
He said, "It's rainier
In Batmania."


  1. Also, apparently Bearbrass, Bareport, Bareheep, Barehurp and Bareberp all between June 1835 and March 1837 when it was officially called Melbourne. Have any other capital cities had so many names in two years? As a Melburnian (or possibly a Batmanian, or Bearbrassite), I wonder how many of these are really previous names and how many are wishful thinking. Maybe the number of names of Melbourne can rival the number of words the Eskimos have for snow?

  2. I'm rather taken with the idea of referring to residents of Melbourne as Batmanians.

  3. The Antipodean, wondering if she can become a Melburnian without becoming a Victorian,23 August 2010 at 14:06

    This is a magic post. Every time I read it, it gets longer.

    Batman came to what-would-eventually-be-Melbourne via Tasmania, although it wasn't officially called that yet.

    Dogberry, is dog-robber related to dogsbody at all?

  4. Rob Young, I would imagine that a capital that changed hands a lot in a war might change name as often. Can't think of an example, though.

    Bonvicino, Batmaniacs.