‘Aunt’ | ‘Granny’: The Sydney Morning Herald

Usually with capital initial, Auntie, also Aunty, is familiarly used to denote a publication or institution which is considered to be conservative or staid in style or outlook, or, alternatively, which is viewed with affection. Auntie, also Aunty, often occurs as a title preceding the name of the publication or institution.

In British English, Auntie, also Aunty, has been used of The Times (London, England) and of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

In the same way, in Australian English, the nouns Aunt and Granny (also Grannie) have been used of The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales), a daily newspaper which was first published, as The Sydney Herald, on Monday 18th April 1831.

The expression Granny Herald occurs, for example, in the column Spy Hole, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Sunday 13th September 1998:

At least our poor poisoned Sydney cousins have retained a sense of humor. Granny Herald reported last week an incident at a rugby match where a player in need of refreshment called to the sideline, “Giardia! Giardia!” They tossed him the water bottle.

Incidentally, it was in reference to the nickname Granny that, at the top of Column 8, The Sydney Morning Herald’s front-page column, was this drawing of a sly-eyed, hawk-faced bonneted figure, waving a bodkin—signed, in faltering hand, Granny, this column was originally written by Sydney Deamer (1891-1962):


The following explanations are from A Century of Journalism : The Sydney Morning Herald and its Record of Australian Life 1831–1931 (Sydney: John Fairfax &​ Sons Limited, 1931):

The Herald has long been affectionately—and sometimes contemptuously—known as “Granny,” the nickname being supposed to refer to its age, its allegedly conservative methods and the untiring energy with which it has always dealt out advice, comment and criticism. It is therefore not surprising, perhaps, to find that the more radical spirits of an earlier age, regarded the paper—and referred to it—in somewhat the same way. But being considerably younger then than it is now, it was equally natural that they should apply to it a more juvenile nickname than its present one.  And so they called it “Aunty.”

It was apparently in the following from The Colonial Observer. Or, Weekly Journal of Politics, Commerce, Agriculture, Literature, Science, and Religion, for the Colony of New South Wales (Sydney, New South Wales) of Thursday 6th January 1842 that The Sydney Herald was first nicknamed:


We have to congratulate our readers on the termination of our first quarter *, as well as on the commencement of another year. The year that is past has gone, with all its cares and troubles and sorrows never to return! […]
It was, doubtless, a somewhat hazardous experiment to launch a new press into such troubled waters, especially with the little encouragement we received from those quarters in which we had a right to expect both countenance and support. […] [W]e confess it required, as the Scotch medley expresses it, “hearts made o’ the best o’ ben’,” to get our little Colonial vessel fairly off the stocks into deep water. Having succeeded, however, in getting her launched, rigged, and manned, with mighty little assistance from any quarter, our readers will now be prepared to give three cheers for the Queen, and three for “The Colonial Observer!” Speaking in confidence, there isn’t a tighter little vessel in these Australian waters, or one that has her long Tom better mounted. Of course, we don’t wish our old aunt, the Herald, to hear this; for although both blind and deaf, as we shewed sufficiently on a recent occasion, when exhibiting the rationale of the Imports and Exports of the Colony, she has not lost all her teeth yet. […]
[…] Our old aunt, the Herald—what is she but a mere sheet of advertisements—a record of the passing incidents of the day, a catalogue of arrivals and departures? When she really does take up any subject of vital interest to the Colony, which, indeed, is but rarely the case, let the recent instance of the Imports and Exports affair bear witness what a mess she makes of it. There is a woful [sic] lack of clear-headedness in our contemporary, as well as of the manly and fearless expression of right principle. There is generally just as much milk and water in his columns—a compound, usually called Content, in the nursery—as will serve to pass off his sheet of advertisements, which ought, in reality, to be distributed gratis, as such sheets usually are at home.

[* The Colonial Observer. Or, Weekly Journal of Politics, Commerce, Agriculture, Literature, Science, and Religion, for the Colony of New South Wales was first published on Thursday 7th October 1841.]

The following day (Friday 7th January 1842), The Sydney Herald published this reply to The Colonial Observer:


Uses of a Newspaper.—The Observer, of yesterday, in an article about every thing, has a sly kick at the Herald in passing, in the following terms:—“Our old aunt, the Herald, what is she but a mere sheet of advertisements–a record of the passing incidents of the day, a catalogue of arrivals and departures. When she really does take up any subject of vital interest to the Colony, which indeed is but rarely the case, let the recent instance of the imports and exports affair decide what a mess she makes of it.” We plead guilty to a portion of these charges; although not a mere sheet of advertisements, we undoubtedly have such a number as enables us to supply our subscribers with a daily paper at as low a rate as some of our three-times-a-week contemporaries charge for their journals; we do record all the passing incidents of the day, our daily publication enabling us to give more ample reports of all important proceedings than any other paper can do, and with all respect for our worthy niece, this is one of the principal uses of a journal; the leading articles are opinions, which different parties may view differently, but in recording facts, a newspaper assists its readers to form their own opinions upon passing events. To the charge of not taking up subjects of vital interest to the Colony, we most decidedly plead not guilty, and we ask our contemporary what subject of importance came before the public in the past year that was not fully discussed in the Herald?—As for making a mess of the arguments, that is a matter of opinion, Miss Observer, upon which we happen to differ from you, which is not very surprising. We must return our thanks to our juvenile contemporary for the good opinion expressed of the Herald in recording passing events: it was the faithfulness with which this was always done that first exalted the Herald so far above the heads of all its contemporaries, as to excite their envy.

A person signing themself ‘Libertas’ nicknamed The Sydney Morning Herald Grannie O. in a letter from Carcoar, in New South Wales, published in the People’s Advocate and New South Wales Vindicator (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 3rd May 1851—in this letter, ‘Libertas’ was urging the people and newspapers of Sydney to act in favour of  the Scottish-born Australian Presbyterian minister, politician and activist John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), who had just been prosecuted for libel and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and to pay a fine of £100:

Well, Mr. Editor, if the matter is not already taken up, stir at once in the matter, and if necessary direct the attention of the Herald, through the medium of an advertisement, for which your Carcoar Friends will pay, as it is not probable the Conservative Herald (Lord save the mark) will trouble themselves to find a corner for the purpose, unless the needful is forthcoming, as they appear to entertain a horror of Lang and Socialism. By the bye, if you have room in your next, I will trouble you with a few random remarks about Conservatism, Socialism, and Democracy, as taken up by the Herald, or Grannie O.; in the meantime I would advise my respectable Grandmother to study the definition of these terms a little more before she pretends to write any more bunkum on the subject.

The term Grannie O. then occurs in the transcript of a speech that John Dunmore Lang delivered during an electoral meeting at Sydney—transcript published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Thursday 18th September 1851:

From an article, too, in a certain celebrated print that morning, it would appear that the result of yesterday’s proceedings had excited unpleasant feelings in the breast of that old crone, “My Grannie, O!” (Laughter.) No doubt she mourned to find that the days of fiddle-faddle of the Sydney Morning Herald were past—that for all political effect that valuable journal was dead.

In a letter to the Editors, published in Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 4th September 1858, ‘a young mother’ used Granny in reference to The Sydney Morning Herald:

Gentlemen—Some great overgrown he-baby having put a letter in the Herald signed A. T. S., complaining that two or three ladies came to see Hamlet at the Prince of Wales the other evening with babies in their arms—believing that there are two sides to the question, and relying upon your accustomed gallantry to the fair sex, I trouble you with a few lines on the subject.
A. T. S. complains to his Granny, the Herald, that the irritable element in his temper was excited by the occasional squalls of the infantile element; he therefore wishes that in future all babies be carefully excluded.

Sydney Punch (Sydney, New South Wales) had a regular section titled Pickings from “Grannie”—the following, for example, is from Sydney Punch of Saturday 4th January 1868:


Mr. Punch, in glancing through last Saturday’s issue of his delightful contemporary, the Sydney Morning Herald, was more than usually struck by the freshness of its contents. Apart from the mellifluous leader, with its reminiscences of a clerical lamp, the “local pars” and the advertisements were characterised by that precision of language, with that clearness and grace of literary execution, which (as Mr. Barton justly observed) “has won for the journal in question its excellent and world-wide reputation.” The sheet which dictates to “Bismarck and the Crowned Heads of Europe,” is well able to abide by its self-assumed position. Even its “Wanteds” will shew this.
In ordinary newspapers there is generally a clumsiness of diction in the advertisements; but, with regard to “Grannie” on this point, she is perfection itself. With a view to support the foregoing estimate, Mr. Punch has culled the following from the “Wanted” columns:—
DRAPER’S ASSISTANT.—Wanted, for the country, a junior hand; must be a pushing youth, &c.
Now this, with one exceptional epithet, is clear enough. [etc.]

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