One Question Quiz
Clockwise: Chainsaws, chokos, culverts, Warriors, Barbie. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Clockwise: Chainsaws, chokos, culverts, Warriors, Barbie. (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyDecember 11, 2023

Chainsaws, chokos and culverts: All the weird things New Zealand Googled in 2023

Clockwise: Chainsaws, chokos, culverts, Warriors, Barbie. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Clockwise: Chainsaws, chokos, culverts, Warriors, Barbie. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Google New Zealand revealed its annual ‘Year in Search’. Sam Brooks runs down the expected, the unexpected and the downright strange.

Each year, Google New Zealand releases what New Zealand has been searching for, from the most Googled people of the year (Jacinda Ardern, often) to more obscure things like what we wanted to know how to cook the most (pasta!). Of course, this list also reveals some quite strange things about what we are fixated on as a nation. Below are 10 of the weirdest things from our search trends in 2023:

Why were we Googling the origin of chainsaws?

New Zealand asked some important “why” questions this year, such as “Why did Jacinda Ardern retire?”, “Why were some roads closed and the public asked to avoid an area in Central Auckland last week?” (I call suspicion on that phrasing) and “Why was the Interislander ferry Kaitaki in the news last week?”

However, nestled at number three between “Why is Book Depository closing?” and “Why is there an egg shortage?” was quite a strange question: “Why were chainsaws invented?”

This search actually dates back to a viral trend from November 2020. TikTok user Jonathan Carson posted a TikTok explaining the original usage of chainsaws. It went viral there and later on other platforms, with users basically telling people to Google the exact phrase “why were chainsaws invented?” This trend has popped up now and again since then, with several sites barely related to chainsaws or chainsawing posting their own explanations, but it seems to have had a resurgence when LadBible posted about it in May of this year.

Anyway, the reason? Childbirth. Read more about it, if you so desire, here.

Welcome to Barbienheimer. (Image: Archi Banal)

We wanted to know about Oppenheimer

New Zealand’s two most Googled movies of the year? Oppenheimer and Barbie. Staying on trend, well done.

We wanted to know how to do stuff

2023 was, in case you somehow forgot, an election year. So it’s pretty gratifying that our most Googled question was “how to vote”. Other stuff we wanted to know how to do includes “how to deactivate Facebook”, “how to lock Facebook profile”, “how to say happy Matariki” and in a first, “how to watch women’s world cup”.

New Zealand didn’t know what a culvert was, but now we do

Our most Googled definition of the year was “culvert”. A culvert is, if you do not know or did not Google it this year, an essential piece of infrastructure that drains water across a road. The likely reason why this was Googled as much as it was: the Auckland floods in January and Cyclone Gabrielle the following month. 

Other words and phrases that we needed to know the definition of were “cis white male”, “proclaim” “staid”, “credo”, “snafu”, “contempt”, “misogyny” and, coming in hot at number three for some reason, “wan”.

What is Threads, anyway?

New Zealand’s most Googled “what is” of the year was “What is Threads?”, the Twitter clone released by Meta and used by approximately three people I know. The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by the expected current affairs to more general knowledge stuff like “what is a blue moon?” (an additional full moon), “what is ALS” (Lou Gehrig’s disease), “what is the Willow Project? (a controversial oil drilling project in Alaska)”, and “what is a culvert?” (see above).

The Last of Us
Ellie (Bella Ramsay) in The Last of Us (Photo: HBO)

New Zealand was not Googling New Zealand TV

The list of what New Zealand Googled reads mostly like a list of the most popular shows of the year – The Last of Us at number one, trailed by Daisy Jones and the Six, Wednesday, Succession, Beef, White Lotus and The Idol. 

Two shows, however, occupied top spots at number two and number three: Netflix YA show Ginny & Georgia, and flash-in-the-pan procedural The Night Agent. This makes sense – could you tell me what either of those shows is about without using Google? I rest my case, your honour.

We looked up Jeremy Renner, for some reason

In a year in which Posie Parker was NZ’s most Googled global figure, with Andrew Tate second, Academy Award-nominated actor Jeremy Renner, who was badly injured in a snowmobile crash in January, emerged as our eighth-most Googled figure, below Margot Robbie but above Elton John. Take that, Reginald!

Can you smell what New Zealand’s been cooking?

The two categories that New Zealand’s cooking habits – or at least recipe searching habits – have been split up into are “sweet” and “savoury”. Topping each list, respectively, are “cookie” (presumably not just singular) and “Yorkshire pudding” (presumably also not singular).

The sweet category is full of usual suspects – “scone”, “Afghan”, “icing”, “pancakes” – while the savoury category feels more specialised – “coronation quiche”, “coronation chicken”, “teriyaki sauce, “fry bread” and “Big Mac sauce”. 

In another category, we were constantly asking how to cook pasta, steak, lamb chops, brown rice, tofu, and, for whatever reason… choko, which led me to Google “what is a choko?” It’s a vegetable. The more you know!

We wanted to build our own headboards

The top “DIY” thing that New Zealand Googled was “headboard” (thanks to, you guessed it, a TikTok trend). This makes sense! Headboards can run a person anywhere from $400-$2,000, for a high-end one. Hell, I’ve been using the same one since I was 13.

The rest of the DIY category ranges from the should-not-DIY-this – “solar panels” and “lash extensions” (!) – to the more expected – “easy Halloween costumes”, “fly screen”, “advent calendar” – to the downright disappointing: “Mother’s Day gifts”.

Up the Wahs!

Well done to the NZ Warriors, the most Googled sports team of 2023, beating out the All Blacks, Black Caps and Football Ferns in their World Cup years. (Also well done to Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami, the most Googled international sports team of 2023.)

Keep going!