Friday, October 12, 2012

D'oh: The Spread of "I, for one, welcome our new * overlords"

Back on 29 January 2004 Language Log's Mark Liberman Googled this phrase: "I, for one, welcome our new * overlords". The asterisk, of course, is a wild card and will match any word. When Homer Simpson Kent Brockman (who else?) originally uttered the phrase the word was "insect": "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." The phrase has since garnered a blither of variations. There's an intersting discussion of this meme at Know Your Meme; the discussion includes a Google Trends graph with a big spike early in 2011.

Why the spike? In February of 2011 IBM's Watson played against human champions in a three-day match. Ken Jennings wrote "I for one welcome our new computer overlords" below one of his answers on the final show.

Back to Liberman. When he Googled the wildcarded phrase in 2004 he got 1940 hits. I just Googled it and got 1,210,000 this. How many do you get?

Mark's current post on The Simpsons is about the show's influence on the English language. The horror! the horror!

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