To coin a phrase

September 02, 2012

When a new phrase is invented it makes it’s way in to the lexicon, and hence searches, at varying speeds and with varying longevity.

An example of a phrase starting small and gathering momentum is ‘responsive design’, a term used by web designers to refer to pages that render attractively in a variety of devices and considered, at the time of writing, the gold standard in web design.

The term responsive design was first coined by designer Ethan Marcotte on web design blog ‘A List Apart’ on May 25th 2010. You can see from this graph of worldwide Google searches containing ‘responsive design‘ that the idea gained little attention until early in the following year, when as the concept was propagated by other prominent web designers a larger population decided to first understand and then implement their responsively designed websites.

Graph of responsive design searches

Conversely when the already somewhat prominent Clint Eastwood gave a bizarre speech at a political rally berating an empty chair (symbolizing current U.S. president Barack Obama) it gave rise to the term ‘Eastwooding’ where people comically berate empty chairs that spread quickly via social media.

This graph (this time just showing search data from the United States shows the term ‘Responsive design’ (orange) verus ‘Eastwooding’ (green).

A graph showing responsive design versus eastwooding searches
Although the growth in this term is fast, it’s often the case that Internet memes have a longer life than you might expect. Witness for example the surprisingly resilient ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ Japanese videogame meme. The phrase ‘all your base’ as of August 2012 was still appearing in almost 50,000 Google searches per month worldwide, an impressive 14 years after it first began to appear outside of it’s video game roots in 1998.

By 2024 it’s likely that ‘Responsive Design’ will have sunk out of the public consciousness, but people may, possibly, be still seeking out ways to shout at chairs.

Chris Reynolds is a Bay Area Product Manager with 15 years of international experience in SEO, digital marketing, UX, analytics and team management.

© 2023 Chris Reynolds