"Tall poppy syndrome" is not contagious—it’s not even a disease.
First things first. "Tall poppy syndrome" is not contagious. It’s not even a disease. It’s an Australian expression that refers to a tendency to discredit famous or successful people.
The term cropped up last week in popular media when Aussie actress Rebel Wilson, of the movie Pitch Perfect 2, was accused of lying about her age—claiming to be 29 instead of 36. The story appeared in an Australian tabloid, which quoted an unnamed source decrying Wilson’s “vivid imagination.”
After the story was picked up by several sites, Wilson went to Twitter to post a response: “OMG I’m actually a 100 year old mermaid formerly known as ‘CC Chalice,’” she wrote. “Thanks shady Australian press for your tall poppy syndrome.” [Note to loyal Grammar Girl readers: we know that Ms. Wilson does not use correct punctuation in this quote. We’re giving her a pass because it’s Twitter.]
OMG I'm actually a 100 year old mermaid formerly known as "CC Chalice" ....thanks shady Australian press for your tall poppy syndrome x — Rebel Wilson (@RebelWilson) May 18, 2015