Friday, December 21, 2007

Official: Australia is not the 'biggest in the Southern Hemisphere'


Image from recent demonstration to keep North Melbourne football club in Victoria. 

In Australia, we are keen to boast our various claims to be the 'biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.' Googling this phrase in English reveals 3,840 instances on the Internet (by comparison, ‘biggest in the Northern Hemisphere’ is only mentioned 8 times). The subjects of this claim include cultural activities (Scottish Highland Festival, temple and casino), sports (rodeo, triathalon and marathon) and man-made structures (desalination plant, drive-in and telescope).

With the aid of Google, it is possible to test whether Australia’s boast is the most common in the Southern Hemisphere. To search for the equivalent phrase in Spanish produced only 1,530 hits, however the Portuguese had 4,690. A sampling of country references in the three languages, weighted by the frequency of language, reveals the following table of claims in order of percentage frequency:

Brazil 44%
Australia 21%
South Africa 16%
New Zealand 6%
Argentina 4%
Multinationals 4%
Chile 2%
Pacific 2%
Other African 2%


Given the population and economy of Brazil, it is no surprise that it has twice as many claims as Australia. While putting Australia in its place, this table does prompt us to consider Australia as part of a community of nations inhabiting the South. But what do they share in common apart from this aspirationalism?

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