While researching the origin of Oz as a nickname for Australia, I learned that L. Frank Baum, the genius behind The Wizard of Oz, discovered the title of his classic children's tale from a file cabinet. In the midst of writing, Baum was stumped on what to name his imaginary land, and right before him were two drawers labeled A-N and O-Z. "O-Z. I'll call the land Oz!" he said.
It was in the 1960's when an Aussie journalist first used the playful spelling "Oz" as he wrote about his homeland in a Sydney newspaper. The play on words stuck, and the rest is history.
Whether Baum ever went to Australia remains a mystery to me. He didn't seem to travel much, but I learned that a few of his characters did. In the fall of 2009, my friend David from Queensland (the star of PART SIX in the book ) was reading Ozma of Oz, one of the sequels to The Wizard of Oz. To David's surprise, he saw that the story opens with Dorothy traveling to Australia with her Uncle Henry to visit relatives. Uncle Henry's health was failing, and Aunt Em thought the trip would do him good. Meanwhile, Aunt Em stayed on the farm to take care of things while Dorothy and Henry were off on their voyage half way around the world.
David was quick to tell me about Dorothy's trip to Australia, and I added it to a growing list of similarities between Baum's Oz and Australia's Oz, two magical lands far, far away from here.
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