Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Australasia is a sub-region of Oceania, a specific region in the South Pacific. The name “Australasia” is derived from the Latin for “south of Asia”, which it is, of course.
Time was, Australasia included New Zealand, Australia and the island of New Guinea. However, as the term became used quite commonly, it came to mean only New Zealand and Australia, and that’s what most people mean when they use the phrase today.
The similarities between the names Australia and Australasia are obvious, and it’s probably the main reason that New Zealanders don't use the name all that much (we tend to say the somewhat more clunky “New Zealand and Australia”). It may also be why Australians like the name—or maybe it’s just convenient for them?
In New Zealand, we’ve noticed that Australians particularly like to use the name “Australasian” when they want to claim a bit of the credit for a successful New Zealander. Many years ago, a book named Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Mt Everest—and arguably the most famous New Zealander ever—as an “Australasian” mountaineer. More recently, they claimed Kiwi singer Lorde, too. We’re quite happy to let Australians have Russell Crowe, though (that’s a Kiwi joke, by the way).
Truthfully, we laugh at all such things, like the time back in 2010 when Australian news media referred to the New Zealand team in the FIFA World Cup as “Australasia”. However, it was a BIT weird when they referred to the two countries combined in the 2012 Summer Olympics as “Aus Zealand”. I’m still puzzled by that one.
We’re used to this mostly-friendly rivalry with Australia. After all, for years they’ve been claiming to have invented the pavlova, when it's clearly a New Zealand invention. These days, the rivalry is over the “flat white”, a type of coffee. It was recently introduced into the US mass market by Starbuck’s, but not without controversy, as the site Quartz pointed out.
The irony with the flat white is that it really is an Australasian invention. The Australians named the drink in the 1980s (probably in Sydney), and it was perfected and standardised in Wellington.
Which goes to show, I suppose, that that if you use a name like “Australasian” often enough, sooner or later it’ll be accurate.
Just don’t try to claim Sir Ed: He’s all ours.
The map up top of this post shows regions of Oceania, including Australasia. It is a public domain image available from Wikimedia Commons.
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