To many people outside the country, New Zealand is a quiet backwater, unlike its large neighbour Australia. To outsiders, New Zealanders are also a long-running joke. The word “backwater” used this way means an isolated or peaceful place. A long-running joke means a place or a group of people that others regularly make fun of. The people of New Zealand are a long-running joke because there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. That’s funny to me too. Many years ago, I had considered working as a journalist in New Zealand, but my journalist friends joked about it being a backwater where there are more sheep than people.
A humorous news report in the British newspaper The Guardian recently said in the early 1980s New Zealand had 22 sheep for every human. There were enough sheep to provide every person with a small flock. The word “flock” means a group of sheep, goats, or birds. The number of sheep has been dropping since the 1980s because the global wool market is declining, and New Zealand has found more lucrative (profitable) use for its land. The ratio of sheep to humans has now dropped below five to one for the first time since records began in the late 1850s.
New Zealand’s flock of sheep is now 25.3 million compared with a population of about 5.15 million. I have never been to New Zealand, but friends tell me it’s a relaxing place. Will the time come when it will have more people than sheep? No one knows for now, but I think that question could become the new running joke.
對於許多外國人而言，紐西蘭是個寧靜而與世無爭之地（backwater），不像它那偌大的鄰居澳洲。對外人來說，紐西蘭人也是長久以來的笑柄（long-running joke）。Backwater在這裏是指一處與世隔絕或恬靜的地方。A long-running joke是指一個地方或一群人成為其他人恆常取笑的對象。紐西蘭人是個長久以來的笑柄（long-running joke） ，因為在紐西蘭，羊比人還多。我也覺得這很好笑。許多年前，我曾經考慮過在紐西蘭做記者，但我新聞界的朋友取笑它是個荒僻之地（backwater），因為在那裏羊比人還多。