I heard this phrase twice yesterday with overdone Australian accents:
"A dingo took my baby!"Both times, the comment was followed by laughter.
This bothers me for two reasons. First, it is a statement that is copied from pop culture in order to elicit laughter; a "TMI" or "Oh no you di'n't" kind of phrase that lacks any originality and is way too overdone in our culture. Secondly and for a far more important reason, the dingo joke is rooted in a dark and recent tragedy.
In the summer of 1980, an Australian family, the Chamberlains was camping at Uluru (Ayer's Rock) where their 2 month old daugher Azaria was taken by a dingo, a wild dog. Because such a thing had not happened before and because the family belonged to a fringe Christian church (Seventh-Day Adventist), the media and investigating police doubted the mother's story that she had seen a dingo bolt out of the tent as she approached. Mass hysteria broke out throughout Australia calling for Lindy Chamberlain to pay for what most of the country believed to be a covered up murder of the baby. She was brought to trial in what became the most publicized trial in Australian history and deemed guilty based on dubious evidence (and likely popular pressure). Lindy was sentenced to life in prison.
After spending more than 3 years in jail and giving birth to another daughter to which she wasn't permitted to care for, new evidence surfaced proving her story of a dingo was true and that she was indeed innocent. The Chamberlain family suffered greatly as a result. You can watch a film based on their story: A Cry in the Dark (brilliant title with a double meaning).
Because "a dingo took my baby" became such a catchphrase and substitution for a lame excuse in Australia from 1980-1986, it persists even today.
What is remarkable to me is how someone who would not joke about a grave injustice or a baby being killed can handily refer to this tragic event as a way to get a laugh.