The State's place names authority, the Geographical Names Board, will meet in Bathurst on Monday to put to rest more than 150 years of debate about the spelling of the nation's rooftop - Mount Kosciusko.
The Polish explorer Paul Strzelecki named the mountain in 1840 after the freedom fighter Tadeusz Kosciuszko but history books, maps and tourist brochures have always spelt it without the „z”.
Many now blame 19th-century bureaucrats who protected their mistake and unfairly blamed Strzelecki for it. A former Prime Minister, Mr Gough Whitlam, has pestered authorities and political leaders for more than 20 years.
He met a bureaucratic brick wall from premiers Sir Robert Askin and Mr Neville Wran in the 1970s and Mr Barrie Unsworth and Mr Nick Greiner in the '80s.
But last year the board agreed to reopen the case. It was then swamped by more than 200 submissions from NSW, interstate and overseas. The board deferred its decision at last month's meeting because it needed time to digest the welter of opinion and historical data. The deliberations could open a can of very expensive worms.
If the board decides to put back the „z”, signposts from the Gold Coast to the Snowy Mountains will have to be corrected. So will maps and textbooks.
The chairwoman of the NSW Tourism Commission's Snowy Mountains region, Ms Gay Epstein, said a quick decision was needed because new regional maps and signs were being planned.
„It is going to be a very expensive exercise because I'd hate to think how many signs we have in this area”, she said.
The nagging issue of pronunciation is more difficult. Kosciuszko pronounced his name as Ko-shoosh-ko — _see below_ and click - play audio.
Read more also below
The Board has recommended to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the Hon Kim Yeadon, that the name be spelt „Kosciuszko”.
By adding the „z” and an acute accent over the first 's', the change reflects the correct spelling of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko after whom the mountain was named.
General Kosciuszko was a great Polish patriot who fought for freedom in both Poland and America. Memorials to him are located in Krakow, Poland and in Washington DC.
Australia’s highest mountain was named after General Kosciuszko in 1840 by the explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki. The Board has established that Strzelecki spelt the name Kosciuszko correctly but that others subsequently changed this spelling.
The Geographical Names Board is the body responsible for place names in NSW. The Board advertised a proposal last November to alter the spelling of the mountain’s name. More than 200 submissions, most supporting the change, were received by the Board.
Board Chairman, Surveyor General Donald Grant, said the Board was unanimous in its decision about the spelling change. „The Board had before it compelling evidence on the spelling of the mountain’s name by Strzelecki.
Mr. Grant said :
„The spelling of other place names in NSW has also been amended to reflect correctly the name of an individual. Steele Point and Clark Island in Sydney Harbor are two examples of recent spelling changes to correct historical errors”
In Western Australia, a similar correction was made by its Geographical Names Committee which added an 'h' to Vlaming Head to commemorate accurately the Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh.
„The decision to change the spelling to Kosciuszko reflects a new maturity in ealing with the cultural and linguistic diversity of Australian society”
Mr. Grant said :
„It is fitting that the Board has recognized Strzelecki’s spelling this year which marks the 200th anniversary of Strzelecki’s birth”.
The Board noted the Polish pronunciation – „Kosk-chooshko” – and the colloquial pronunciation „Kozi-os-ko” — click (aka) „Kozjosko” or „Ko-shoosh-ko”.
Published in the KHA Newsletter No. 101 Spring 1998