It all started with this iconic scene from Mean Girls:
The word was totally vintage and Regina wasn’t going to allow it to happen. Fast forward ten years, and “fetch” might have inadvertently happened thanks to the film’s cultural impact and nearly everyone constantly quoting one-liners.
1. The Ngram Test
Google has a massive database that can chart the yearly count of selected n-grams (aka letter combinations), words, and/or phrases used in over 5.2 million books (up until 2008). Since its launch in 2010, everyone from historians to bored BuzzFeed contributors have used the database to study cultural change (and to see how popular cocaine was in Victorian times). Since books are often a reflection of society, Google’s Ngram will help to answer our fetch question.
3. What happens when you use Ngram to chart “fetch”?
As you can see, “fetch” has had quite the history in literature. This makes sense, since the word has an ambiguous meaning and is used regularly. With that said, it’s probably safe to say it’s most commonly used differently than as the slang term for “awesome” that Wieners coined.
4. But wait, do you see that interesting spike around 2004?
With a closer look, the word “fetch” was on a steady incline, increasing at an average of 2% every year until 2004. From 2004 to 2005, fetch made a jump of 9%, a 7% increase than the average of prior yearly jumps. But what does 2004 have to do with it all?
Well, 2004 was the year Mean Girls was released in theaters.
9. To dig a little deeper, let’s compare it to other similar words using Ngram.
If an increased use of “fetch” (as the adjective defined by Wieners) was actually a trend, then synonymous words would decrease, as they would be substituted in favor for the word. “Awesome,” a word that could be switched out with Wieners’ definition of “fetch,” was on a steady increase during the turn of the millennium.
That is until 2004.
Something happened in 2004. Suddenly “awesome” was decreasing in print, the same exact time “fetch” was increasing. Beyond that, the two lines almost form a symmetrical image of each other, like “fetch” was getting used at the same rate “awesome” wasn’t getting used. Could it be “fetch” has slowly been replacing “awesome” since 2004?
Well one coincidence is certain, this trend started the same year Mean Girls was released in theaters.
14. Rap Stats
The site Rap Genius has released a similar n-gram chart generator as Google, except instead of books, it counts the frequency of a word or phrase appearing in rap songs from 1988 through the present day. Since rap is the most loose form of music expression lyrically, rap should fairly represent accurate cultural trends. Above is an example of a search with the words “dogg” and “dawg” charted.
15. “Fetch” Charted
As illustrated above, the chart shows “fetch” was on a decline ever since 1990 and hit its lowest point ever in the new millennium around 2004. Since 2004, the word’s appearance in rap lyrics has spiked, coincidentally the same year Mean Girls was released. Currently, the word is at its highest point ever in rap music in roughly two decades.
Assumably, thanks to Gretchen Wieners.
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