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I noticed the following comments under a hot meta post: Downvoting questions from new users

  • I agree this is horribly bad form. I blame the Australians. – Andrew

  • But @Andrew, as you yourself pointed out, there are no Australians here. – StoneyB

  • @StoneyB No, actually I said I never see them. They could be all around us, waiting in the trees like downvoting drop-bears, whispering, "Strewth, she's a beaut isn't she!" when they see their next victim. – Andrew

At first, I thought these comments to be rude and offensive, yet the upvotes suggest that they are not. I guess it's a well-known joke, but searching "blame the Australians" online didn't give me any useful information.

My question is: Why are Australians blamed?

  • 8
    Brits always blame the Australians (and vice versa). It's a national sport. – Mick Jan 19 '17 at 10:23
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    It's a joke, Andrew (an American) posted a question on meta asking why there were no Australian users on the site How come I never see any Aussies on here?. – Mari-Lou A Jan 19 '17 at 10:24
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    I really hope this question stays on the main site, and doesn't get migrated over to meta. It is a perfect example of how learners can misinterpret tone and the English/American sense of humour. I think this is a good question, why indeed blame the Aussies? What have they ever done? ;) – Mari-Lou A Jan 19 '17 at 10:35
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    @SunQingyao It's probably referring not specifically to natives in terms of indigenous people, but to people with Australian citizenship in general (mostly being people of British heritage). Where there isn't a huge history of racism between two groups of people (or where it's so far in the past that nobody cares any more) it can often be seen as humorous to make good-natured jokes at their expense, as long as they don't get too mean or cruel. It all depends on context, of course, and one person's joke can be another's insult in these circumstances, so it's usually best to tread lightly. – Muzer Jan 19 '17 at 14:17
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    Also, drop-bear is a clue that the exchange was good natured and not serious. – ColleenV Jan 19 '17 at 15:04
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It's not a well known joke, nor are you missing any nuance of the English language. Presumably Andrew was alluding to an earlier meta thread of his - How come I never see any Aussies on here?, where he put a humorous slant on a genuine question.

This would be known as an in-joke - a private joke that can only be understood by a limited group of people who have a special knowledge of something that is referred to in the joke.

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    " I blame X" is a common construction for this sort of humor, and X can be pretty much anything. Just search for "I blame meme". My favorite is A book fell on my head. I can only blame my shelf. (my shelf sounds similar to myself). Silly, but it makes me smile. – ColleenV Jan 19 '17 at 14:26
  • @ColleenV Not only "my shelf" sounds similar, it also sounds like you lisp, which is considered embarrassing to some extent :) – yo' Jan 19 '17 at 19:13
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    @yo' Unless you're Sean Connery. – JAB Jan 19 '17 at 21:23
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Specifically this joke is probably based on the fact that Australia is on the opposite hemisphere of where most English-speaking countries are, leading to a running joke of everything in Australia being upside-down.

In this joke, the well-meaning Australian wants to upvote a post, but because they are "upside-down", they downvote it instead.

  • 1
    While this may not be the answer to the specific scenario laid out in the question, this is a much more common usage of the expression. – theonlygusti Jan 19 '17 at 22:00
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    Cripes, this sounds good but I can't decide which button's more appropriate. – Rache Jan 20 '17 at 7:57
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What you are seeing is a common construct that ridicules the blame of unrelated groups by sarcastically laying blame when it's understood to be sarcasm. The poster is not seriously blaming Australians.

The 'Thanks, Obama' meme is a similar construct that is a response to the American right-wing blaming things on Obama that are difficult to link directly to him, such as the mortgage crisis. In response, the left-wing ridicules it by attaching 'Thanks, Obama' (in a sense: blaming Obama) for silly things like spilling your drink.

Thanks Obama

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/thanks-obama

However, this isn't new and didn't start during Obama's presidency. One of the themes of the South Park movie released in 1999 is 'Blame Canada', where the residents of South Park refuse to see that they are the proximate cause of their children's use of bad language, and so they blame the country of Canada instead for a TV Show their kids watch.

Blame Canada

Blame Canada song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBpgcZ1zYJs

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    I don't get it, what does this have to do with the question? I'm not downvoting because I might have missed something, but from what I can tell this is not even close to being an answer – theonlygusti Jan 19 '17 at 22:03
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    It's an example of a similar structure - 'Blame X' where X is entirely unrelated for humor - basically an example of @HotLicks's answer. – Ehryk Jan 19 '17 at 22:20
  • Hi Ehryk, I think this is a good addition but you may want to edit to include a little more explanation of how it relates to the question. Keep in mind that many of the folks reading your answer are still learning English, and that the order the answers appear in can change, so they may not have read the other answers first. – ColleenV Jan 20 '17 at 3:46
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This is a fairly common turn of phrase in the US -- don't know about England or Australia.

"I blame it on Fred" is said when "Fred" obviously had nothing to do with it. It's mainly just an attempt at humor, to help alleviate an unpleasant situation. (Successful or not, you be the judge.)

For the past eight years, if someone got a flat tire they were likely to tell a companion "I blame it on Obama", even though President Obama obviously had nothing to do with the problem. Starting tomorrow it will be "I blame it on Trump."

There is a bit of a social/political commentary involved, in that the blamee is typically someone who does do certain things for which he might (or might not) bear culpability. The use of the trope suggests that the person is something of a scapegoat for every bad thing that happens.

1

The reference to drop bears was the first clue this was meant as a joke. The first couple trips to Australia I was warned about drop bears and hoop snakes. Since almost everything in Australia can kill you I took heed... under every tree I'd be looking and the guys would just be grinning the whole time. The reason it was funny is because there is no such thing as a drop bear or a hoop snake. Joke was on me... Once I got it, it was pretty funny... it was clearly meant as a joke from someone very aware of Australian humor in in no way offensive.

  • You should explain what a drop bear is. The majority of users are non native speakers and will not know, unless they have seen one in real life ;). – Mari-Lou A Jan 23 '17 at 7:46

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