Have you ever wondered what “all your base are belong to us” means? Have you noticed an influx of people constantly saying things like “cool story, bro” or “nom nom”? These catchphrases all have something in common (besides being confusing) – they came from the Internet.
For this study, we used Google Trends to get a handle on who’s searching for which Internet catchphrases and researched popular online sayings like “facepalm,” “I regret nothing,” and “u wot m8” – phrases that we both see (in meme form) and hear in daily life.
It kind of feels like the Internet gets more and more popular each year. Though that may or may not be true, one thing certainly is: Internet catchphrases are on the rise. Looking at the results in Google searches for each catchphrase on the graph, we are left with fascinating answers.
Popularity of the word “trolling” jumped considerably between 2004 and 2015. Though the term trolling (meaning being cynical on the Internet) has been around for years, it peaked in 2015. The word is now used much more often to describe people on and off the Internet who express their disdain for any number of subjects – politics, religion, or an article about the Kardashians.
Other Internet catchphrases have diminished in popularity since 2004. The phrase “cool story, bro” peaked in 2011, perhaps inspired by movies like “Zoolander” and “Superbad.” Though the phrase can still be seen around the Internet, Google Trends shows that, in relative terms, next to no one was searching for it in 2015.
Now we know that certain Internet catchphrases are more popular than others, both in use and in Google Trends, but investigating which year produced the most searches is fascinating. According to the bar graph above, 2012 was the leader in Internet catchphrase searches. Though 2013, 2014, and 2015 stand as close contenders, the earlier years (before 2010) produced much lower results.
So, what is the reason behind the rising popularity of Internet catchphrases as the years go on? According to some studies, it could be our attention spans shortening – something that a catchphrase on a meme can satisfy – though it is also possible that with the rise in social media in recent years, Internet catchphrases simply have more range. After the launch of social media powerhouses Facebook and Twitter in 2004 and 2006 respectively, people showed, shared, and consumed Internet catchphrases more often than in pre–social media days.
In the above GIF, we get a glimpse of Google Trends search prevalence in each state across America. Why is “oh hai” a more popular search term in Oregon than in Washington? Why do people seem to lack interest for “facepalm” in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming?
Similar to how slang differs from state to state, Internet catchphrases seem to be popular in some states and fall flat in others. Different states have different cultures that produce different colloquialisms – the same can be said for the Internet and its many catchphrases. The word “trolling” seems to be the most widespread, according to Google Trends. Due to the increase in “trolling” as less of an Internet catchphrase and more of a way to describe a person’s behavior, it makes sense that more people would be Googling the word rather than something like “stahp” or “I regret nothing.”
Speaking of trolling, who is trolling? Google Trends results show that the Green Bay/Appleton, Wisconsin, area leads in “trolling” searches. Of course this does not necessarily mean that Green Bay has more trolls in their area – it simply means they Google the word more often. Cities in Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri follow Wisconsin for the lead in researching the definition of trolling.
Stepping back to analyze the many bizarre catchphrases that come from the Internet produces interesting results. The Internet is constantly changing and growing, and we receive newer and stranger results all the time. If someone could go back in time and say “nom nom” in response to a delicious meal or work in an “all your base are belong to us,” they would probably get a blank look in response. This is where Google searches come in handy. The Google Trends results are an interesting way to discover where, what, and why certain phrases are popular during certain years.
Feel free to share the images found on this page freely. When doing so, please attribute the authors by providing a link back to this page, so your readers can learn more about this project and the related research.