Her name is the absolute perfect conversation starter, sparking a whole host of excited and bemused responses whenever she's introduced to someone new.

A lot of people laugh upon hearing it. Some think she must be lying, that her moniker is either fake or that she changed it at some stage.

She considered using her middle name, Camille, to make life a little simpler. But there's a certain charm, a specialness, about the real thing that's hard to let go of.

And so, Sydney Cairns continues to be an attraction in the city she's calling home for now … Sydney, naturally.


The hilarious part about the 22-year-old with one of the most Aussie names ever is that she's an American, raised just outside Philadelphia before moving to Boston for university.
And until she came Down Under for the first time 18 months ago as a uni exchange student, she didn't realise quite how distinct her name was.

"People let me know pretty quickly that it was," Ms Cairns told news.com.au.

"Most people laugh, they think it's hilarious. Some people think I'm kidding, that I've made it up. I've even gotten a comment that it sounds like a stripper name. I don't know about that."

She said her mum and dad spent their honeymoon here "a million years ago", exploring Sydney and taking a brief trip to the Blue Mountains.

It's unlikely they heard of Cairns while they were here. Ms Cairns herself is yet to visit the north Queensland city.

"We would say it with the hard R, like 'care-ens'," she said of the American pronunciation of her surname. "I say to people who ask to say the name Karen and add an 's', kind of.

Sydney Cairns is making the most of her working holiday in Sydney. Photo / Supplied
Sydney Cairns is making the most of her working holiday in Sydney. Photo / Supplied

"Cairns is Scottish and it actually means pile of rocks. That sounds a bit ordinary but a long time ago, when people would go to war, they would put rocks in a pile for each soldier.

"When they came back from battle, they would pick up a rock. It was how they counted how many people had been lost in the war."


As for the inspiration for her first name, Ms Cairns said her parents were set on it long before she arrived and had even considered it for her older brother.

"They decided it was a little more of a feminine name. I know here it's usually a male name. I think they just liked the sound of it — it wasn't calculated at all — and so they saved it for me."

In the end, her brother received a different name — Wollongong.

No, not really. That would be excellent, though.

"His name is Elliott, so no Australian city name for him," Ms Cairns laughed.

In the US, Sydney is not exactly an uncommon name for girls, and when Ms Cairns came here to study, there were two others in her cohort, she said.

"Of course, in the States, everyone knows Sydney the city but I don't think anyone really knew that Cairns was a place," she said.

"The last name is what makes it kind of special, here at least.

"Until I came here a year-and-a-half ago, I didn't know how Aussie it is. People let me know pretty quickly that it was.

"I get it. It would be like if my name was, like, New York Los Angeles."

Arthur Phillip originally named the colony where the First Fleet settled "New Albion". It was later changed to Sydney, inspired by Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, the then Home Secretary, who had chartered Phillip's voyage.

Meanwhile, Cairns was named in honour of Sir William Wellington Cairns. It was officially formed in 1876 after colonialists settled in the area when gold was found nearby.

Ms Cairns graduated last month with a degree in communications and came back to Australia on a working holiday visa, having fallen in love with the place.

She's working in public relations and saving up to explore the country a little, hopefully getting up to Cairns.

"It's beautiful here. The people are really kind. I like the culture," she said.