Flat names 101

Dunedin’s stu­dent quar­ter, Thurs­day, at 11am.

Sunday Star-Times - - SLACK & WHITE - HAMISH McNEILLY

Sarah Gal­lagher can’t con­tain her ex­cite­ment.

‘‘Pull over, there’s a new one there.’’

She leaves the car and runs across Howe St to snap a pic­ture of a sign say­ing ‘‘Ku­mara Pit’’.

For a per­son who has de­voted al­most a quar­ter of her life to doc­u­ment­ing flat signs in Dunedin’s ‘‘stu­dent ghetto’’, this is some find. The pic­ture is soon up­loaded to her web­site, Duned­in­flat­names.co.nz.

Gal­lagher’s in­ter­est in flat names started in the early 1990s when she moved into a stu­dent flat called ‘‘The Mouse House’’ on Cum­ber­land St.

‘‘I thought it was a really dumb name . . . turns out the whole house was in­fested with mice.’’

Many of the hun­dreds of names Gal­lagher has ac­quired since 2000 are un­print­able in a fam­ily news­pa­per.

We turn the cor­ner into the in­fa­mous Cas­tle St, where the road’s sur­face is per­ma­nently pock­marked due to the couch fires held on the street each aca­demic year.

The street is home to ar­guably the most fa­mous stu­dent flat of all, and it doesn’t even have a sign, just a num­ber.

That num­ber is 660 – used by for­mer res­i­dents-turned-chart­top­ping band Six60.

Gal­lagher, who hopes to pub­lish a book of her re­search and pos­si­bly a phone app, says flat names are unique to Dunedin due to the large mass of stu­dents liv­ing in one area.

‘‘There is quite a lot of iden­tity cre­ation in there. Stu­dents are com­ing to Dunedin af­ter leav­ing home and they are find­ing out who they are.’’

Or maybe they are just tak­ing the prover­bial as we pass flats dubbed ‘‘The Hoe-Tel’’, ‘‘The Nun­nery’’ and two ad­join­ing flats, ‘‘The Fridge’’ and ‘‘The Frid­gette’’.

Gal­lagher says cor­po­rates in­clud­ing a peanut but­ter brand, a mo­biles com­pany, a bank and a ra­dio sta­tion have spon­sored flats as a way into the lu­cra­tive stu­dent mar­ket.

Many flats have pop cul­ture themes – a Footrot Flats sign dates from the early 1970s, while nearby there’s a more cur­rent Fam­ily Guy-in­spired sign, ‘‘The Drunken Clam’’.

Per­haps the most recog­nis­able sign was at 3 Clyde St – ‘‘Pink Flat the Door’’ – which dates from 1988. The Pink Floy­din­spired door in­cludes the sig­na­ture of found­ing flat­mate Wal­lace Chap­man, pre­sen­ter of Ra­dio NZ’s Sun­day Morn­ing.

Gal­lagher says there is a ru­mour that a flat once oc­cu­pied by some East­ern Euro­peans was un­der sur­veil­lance af­ter it was named the Depart­ment of Slavonic Stud­ies.

It is un­clear if au­thor­i­ties ever in­ves­ti­gated the Dunedin branch of DSIR – the Depart­ment of Stu­dent Ine­bri­a­tion Re­search.

Our tour takes us down to Hyde St, home to the in­fa­mous an­nual keg party, an oc­ca­sion for stu­dents to cre­ate themes for their flats. One such stand­out was the ‘‘Hy­de­sen­berg’’ in hon­our of the hit TV show Break­ing Bad.

The oc­cu­pants of ‘‘The Yeast In­fec­tion’’ pay $112 a room for the priv­i­lege.

‘‘The sign is definitely a draw­card,’’ Sammy Lane, 20, says.

Ge­orge Steele-Mor­timer says ev­ery­one knows the flat’s name.

‘‘The best bit is when they ask for the pass­word to the wi-fi and we tell them ‘you’re in­fected’.’’

Above, res­i­dents of ‘‘The Yeast In­fec­tion’’, and be­low, some of the other Dunedin stu­dent-flat names doc­u­mented by Sarah Gal­lagher, right.

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