I’m about 4 months late to the Google auto-complete craze. Better late than never because the auto-complete function offers a diverting look inside the internet hive-mind.
Though there are plenty of serious surveys conducted to measure America’s image around the world, I thought it instructive to take a different approach: type in “why is America…” and “Why are Americans…” into the google engine dedicated to various countries with large numbers of internet-using English speakers and see what kind of gems auto-complete suggests.
Google maintains separate search sites for different countries. Google.com is the main Google search engine for the United States, while google.co.uk is the main search engine for the United Kingdom. I chose google sites for India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This is not a scientific sampling.
The results aren’t too surprising, though a little harrowing. The most popular responses are reproduced above and below:
"Why is America…"/"Why are Americans…"
- so fat
- so rich
- so great
- called yankees
- so ignorant
- called america
- in debt
- so violent
- so religious
A typical sample comes from Canada:
"Why do Americans…" and "Why does America" are also interesting questions, though they’re not included in the word cloud above. Canada again:
Canada! We love you guys! You’re “most liked” according to Gallup’s World Affairs Survey of Americans!
Also, I know nothing of how google’s auto-complete algorithm functions. I suspect an IP’s location and the timing of the search has an effect. The data was gathered today in the eastern USA. “afraid of dragons” most likely refers to Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?"