The REAL story behind brutal ‘two-headed’ inbred joke that has plagued Tasmanians for over 200 years
- Academic revealed real story about the joke of Tasmanians having two heads
- Professor Stefan Petrow said joke has a plausible explanation
- He said it could have come from three explanations, but one was more plausible
A leading academic has revealed the story behind why people from Tasmania have been forced to put up with jokes from mainland Australians about having ‘two heads’ for almost 200 years.
Professor Stefan Petrow from the University of Tasmania said while the joke has been around for decades, it likely originated as a result of a very plausible explanation.
He said while there were three possible origins of the brutal joke, there was one particularly grim and tragic historical reason more plausible than the others.
A leading academic who specialises in Tasmanian history has revealed the real story why people from the state have been the butt of jokes about having two heads
Professor Petrow explained, the most likely theory is the third one, which is the widespread cases of goitre (pictured) in Tasmania throughout the 19th and 20th centuries
The first theory refers to Tasmanians being limited to mating partners, while the second theory relates to WWI soldiers requesting two pillows for bunks.
‘I have done a lot of work over the last eight or nine years on Tasmanian soldiers in World War I and I haven’t come across that particular point (asking for two pillows), but it’s not impossible,’ Professor Petrow told the ABC.
Three likely reasons for the two-headed joke
- The first potential origin of the joke refers to Tasmania’s historically isolated community and limited choice of mating partners.
- The second possible scenario relates to World War I, when soldiers from the island state reportedly requested two pillows for their bunks.
- The third and most plausible cause refers to widespread cases of goitre in Tasmania throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
But as Professor Petrow explained, the most likely theory is the third one, which is the widespread cases of goitre in Tasmania throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
A goitre is a swelling of the neck that occurs as a result of an enlarged thyroid gland, which can be caused by an iodine deficiency.
Retired professor of nuclear medicine, Paul AC Richards said Tasmania is mildly iodine deficient and goitre was common during the 19th and 20th centuries.
‘Sometimes these goitres were very, very large, and so the joke went around that it was protruding like a second head,’ Mr Richards said.
The former professor said there were goitres that grew to be the size of footballs and when removed they left a scar where the infamous second head would have been.
Several prominent Tasmanians also had the malformation, including Dame Enid Lyons – the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives.
A goitre (pictured) is a swelling of the neck that occurs as a result of an enlarged thyroid gland, which can be caused by an iodine deficiency
Mr Richards said that’s why she wore scarves and necklaces all the time – to conceal the evidence of her previous surgery.
He said goitre was so prevalent in the state the government handed out daily potassium iodine tablets to schoolchildren in 1949 to stop the problem.
The reason for the deficiency is reportedly due to the land’s soil being leached of iodine during the ice age, which is said to have affected food sources later on.
A widespread over-supplementation of iodine in the 1960s resulted in a spate of cases of thyrotoxicosis, where too much thyroid hormone causes hyperthyroidism.
Prof Richards said while the issue was rectified through adding iodine to various products and food processes, it was a tenuous process.
Professor Petrow said the joke could have potentially evolved out of several potential origins, but locals played into it as much as those from the mainland.
‘I think Australians like to poke fun at us in a very convivial way, so they’re not having a go at us, but having fun with us,’ he said.
Several prominent Tasmanians also had the malformation, including Dame Enid Lyons (pictured) – the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives