Investigating Poop In All Its Forms (I Immediately Regret That Title)

Though not necessarily the impetus to create this blog, I thought it poignant to mention I have Crohn’s Disease. This has led to a lifelong love/hate relationship with poop. If you share the information in this blog, first link to us–my boss nods his head approvingly– and also link to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. They do great work!

I have a strange fascination with Google Trends. Their relative-interest-over-time charts offer valuable insight into our Search Souls. And sometimes that insight is about poo. Or, more specifically, sh*t.

I guess I should pause here to offer my one and only warning: If you’re under 12 years old, please skip to the next blog. Because there is about to be cursing aplenty. Well, one particular curse word. (It’s shit, folks.)

The Great Shit Spike of January 2012 Reveals Itself

Google Trend chart showing the great shit spike of January 2012

The above Google Trends chart details an abnormal spike in search interest for the term shit during January of 2012. (Don’t ask why I was looking. I don’t have a satisfactory answer.) The intensity of search interest for the term was nearly double when compared to the months and years prior. And it seems like the shit party continues today: After January 2012, shit has enjoyed a 25% increase in relative search interest when compared to its pre-spike numbers.

No one on Earth would argue that the term shit went mainstream in 2012. Its origins date as far back as 1508, when those clever Old English cats used scitte to describe both excrement and an obnoxious person. Since then, we’ve been finding ingenious ways to slip it into everyday conversation. We’ve created past tenses (shat), alternate pronunciations (shite), and confusing expressions (shits and giggles). There was even a movie released in 1989 called Violent Shit.*

So what happened in January of 2012 that built all the sudden buzz? The truth is, as I type this sentence, I don’t know. But I hope to have the puzzle solved by the end of the blog. I welcome you on this journey while simultaneously urging you find a clothespin. For your nose. ‘Cause shit stinks, ya’ know?

My Shit Investigation, Unfolding In Somewhat Real Time

Is there evidence of this peculiar trend starting before January? I know the spike looks sharp, but maybe December had an uptick, too. For the answer, we return back to the original trends chart:

Google Trend chart showing the activity surrounding shit in december of 2011

National interest in shit jumped from 59 to 72 between November and December of 2011. Any investigation of world events will need to include December, too. Even the months of October and November, at a rating of 59, would have been the high points on the chart if not for the spike directly thereafter. So its possible the cause of this shit storm was brewing all fall. (I apologize for that sentence but I simply can’t remove it for posterior posterity’s sake).

Was it strictly shit that became popular? Or was there a rise in search interest in all its synonyms, as well? Only one way to find out. Back to the handy Google Trends chart:

Google Trend chart showing the activity surrounding shit and it's synonyms in in 2011 and 2012

As you can plainly see from the graph above, there was no noticeable spike in shit’s synonyms. Crap, poop, and feces remained normalized. If the spike was due to shit in general, you’d expect all of the synonyms to gain steam. So why does the spike only occur in this one specific (and crass) version of poo?

(On a random aside, March 2010 was the second time poop was searched at a higher relative rate than shit. It marked the beginning of the end in the poo wars. Shit rallied briefly, but for all of 2011 it was getting its ass kicked. Perhaps the great spike was simply shit’s last hurrah. No great champion goes out without a ferocious fight.)

Shit getting punched in the face by Apollo Creed

Does a search of shit set to the date range of October 2011 through January 2012 reveal anything? It sure does. Occupy Wall Street and a video with the title “Shit Girls Say” stick out immediately. I’ll choose to dive into Occupy Wall Street first, as it’s the only familiar result.

Doing a quick search regarding OWS in general, I can confirm the protest movement started in earnest on Sept. 17th, 2011. However, the protestors cleared out of Zuccotti Park on November 15th, 2011, well before the January high-water mark.

Not quite ready to give up this thought-thread, I Googled shit occupy wall street. OWS was a highly tense protest and both sides of the aisle were passionate in their actions and responses. It was a breeding ground of coarse language, shit being front and center in many blog posts and rally crys. There was even some debate on exactly where the protestors were shitting, with the Lonely Conservatives of the world deciding protestors were pooping on cars or sidewalks while others had a more even take.

Was Occupy Wall Street alone the cause of shit’s sudden popularity? I don’t think so. There have been other protests and other controversial news stories. None of those carried the associated spike in the usage of shit. The dialogue of the time may have been enough to raise shit a couple interest points, but not to the degree of the Great Shit Spike of 2012.

The “Shit Girls Say” internet video is a much more interesting suspect. After all, a quick spike basically screams VIRAL VIDEO at the top of its lungs. What exactly was Shit Girls Say? I didn’t remember the video myself. Happily, plenty of people took note of the phenomenon at the time. After a millisecond of further research, I was able to discover the Youtube channel Shit Girls Say. The first video was posted on (drum roll please)…. December 12th 2011. Here’s the video:

The release perfectly coincides with our Google Trends data. There was the initial interest jump in December followed by the huge spike in January. And like all internet fads, the world moved on fast. But not without leaving an entirely new realty of shit searches left in its wake.

The video spawned countless spin-offs:

And the original creators ended up making 4 in total. The last was released in September of 2012:

The original video has been viewed over 21 million times. All four have been viewed a whopping 38 million times. If you search shit girls say you’ll find those original videos and a ton of copy cats. Click here to see for yourself.

I think I’m sold on “Shit Girls Say” being responsible for the Great Shit Spike of 2012. And if you weren’t convinced already, this chart should close the case:

Google Trend chart showing the search activity surrounding shit and shit girls say

Between Shit Girls Say, Shit Girlfriends Say, Shit White Girls Say, Shit Cats Say and all the other iterations, its easy to conclude this viral phenomenon not only resulted in the January spike, but is likely responsible for shit’s 25% rise in relative search popularity ever since. The phrase “Shit x person says” is now engrained in the American search lexicon.

The Final Act Before I Take A Potty Break

Before I officially put a bow on The Great Shit Spike of 2012, there is one more mystery I hope to solve. The small search interest spike that began in October of 2011. That initial uptick led me to believe that shit had been growing in popularity all fall. Could this mini-spike have been related to Occupy Wall Street? After all, the protest fits perfectly in the initial spikes timeline. And it wasn’t a large spike. September had an interest rate of 53 vs the 59 number of October and November. I’m willing to believe the protest and vitriol being spewed by both sides could have led to the small uptick in shit search…

Alas, my Occupy Wall Street rationale was just never meant to be. The true source of this initial spike in shit interest was–obviously–all Apple’s fault. Siri was introduced in a promotional video for the first time on October 4th, 2011:

Within days, a soon to be popular blog was started. And its name was Shit That Siri Says. You can see evidence of the correlation in this chart:

Google Trend chart showing the search activity surrounding shit and shit siri says

Even though Shit That Siri Says appeared before the Youtube channel Shit Girls Say, I’m willing to bet the Siri blog was the intellectual thief. The creators of Shit Girls Say had created the @ShitGirlsSay twitter handle in April of 2011. It was already heavily followed by October of that year. It wasn’t quite the cultural phenomenon it was about to become, but it was well-known enough to assume the Shit That Siri Says blog was an early spinoff.

Time for Our Regularly Scheduled Product Tie-In

This analysis of Poo Popularity can’t be just all fun and games, people. We have to tie this into our product to keep the lights on. So I designed a poop-themed wristband using just clip art and common fonts. It’s a design that’s well within reach at (and also highly topical):

Poop 2016 presidential wristband

Start designing your own Poop Presidential Ticket (or any other wristband) today!

*As it turns out, Violent Shit does not appear to be a movie about the runs.