Observational Repetition?
May 21, 2007 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever learned a new word, or heard a famous quote or something and for the next few weeks you see or hear this new thing again, sometimes repeatedly? Is there a name for that?
posted by OpinioNate to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Pattern Recognition?
posted by ktrey at 10:51 AM on May 21, 2007

I asked this a few months ago, and it turns out it had been asked several times before here on AskMe. Like you, I had trouble googling up the previous questions because I didn't know the term. Anyway, here's the thread where I asked, with many links to related info and the previous answers too.
posted by vytae at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2007

Meme. "It's going around." The reason you learned the word, or heard the quote, is that lots of people are using it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2007


See also
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2007

Best answer: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon ?
posted by stovenator at 10:55 AM on May 21, 2007

It's the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (it's mentioned in vytae's link too)

The cool thing is once I heard of this, I started seeing it everywhere!
posted by lou at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

posted by hermitosis at 11:05 AM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Prepare to see this question come up again in the near future.
posted by OpinioNate at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:25 AM on May 21, 2007

It's not "meme." Why do people keep suggesting this?
posted by languagehat at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2007

A similar thing just happened to me. Last Sunday I posted the lyrics to the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show as an answer to an AskMe question.

Today I was reading my favorite columnist Jon Carroll's column from Friday, and he had used the same lyrics in his signature signoff, in which he uses random lyrics as an intro to his email address.
posted by trip and a half at 11:43 AM on May 21, 2007

It's not "meme." Why do people keep suggesting this?

Seriously! I just heard someone suggest it the other day.
posted by danb at 11:49 AM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

It would be a meme if the reason is that the word/quote actually has become more frequent. That would explain that you've learned it at this moment in time and that it then appears everywhere. This probably happens sometimes, but the phenomenon the OP asks for seems much more like a case of selective cognition (both of the words arround you that you notice and of the cases of learned words that you notice), which when working in this way would be the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. In other words: no actual higher frequency of the word and no meme.
posted by pica at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2007

I have no answer but this totally happened to me just today: I finished a book called "Q" by Luther Blisset (name of a group of intellectuals named after an 80's footballer) and the very next book i started a few hours later mentioned Luther Blisset the footballer for no apparent reason. Freaky.
posted by cardamine at 1:22 PM on May 21, 2007

This just happened to me with the expression "drinking the kool aid". When my friend said it, I thought she'd just pulled out some random, obscure phrase. And then i read it/heard it about 3 more times over the next month.

I was amazed at the phenomenon - i'm glad to learn it has a name! Cool!
posted by Kololo at 2:45 PM on May 21, 2007

For the sake of completeness, here's the thread where I asked it.
posted by etc. at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2007

You are all wrong, it is Blue Car Syndrome. (Buy a blue car, and suddenly you start seeing blue cars everywhere). Sadly the internet has not yet devoted much bandwidth to this phenomenom so I can't find a satisfactory link.
posted by ZackTM at 4:14 PM on May 21, 2007

Plate 'o' Shrimp
posted by mjbraun at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

FWIW, most references to the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon" I can find seem to link back to that very same article. Google Scholar shows no scholarly research with that topic. Some links (and etc.'s thead) seem to suggest that the name was coined by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I always thought that Baader-Meinhof was a sinister gang of German terrorists...

Also, I think the Internet has started to make it harder to tell (at least for me) whether something's a meme or it's just me experiencing (what might as well be called the) Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. For instance, one day I suddenly discovered everyone in the world reads xkcd.com. The comics were everywhere: they were printed out all over the computer science department, friends would discuss them...so did they all do this before, and I just didn't notice? Or did they all suddenly start reading the comic at the same time? Or take lolcats. I have a hard time believing that such fads spring up overnight, yet within the same 2- or 3-day period, I see those damn captioned cats in thousands of places, including---where else?---xkcd! I think that the former is Baader-Meinhof and the latter is a meme, but how can one tell?
posted by goingonit at 6:24 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

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