I have been doing ethnographies in London for a couple of weeks. And the great thing about ethnographies is that things do pour in.
In one interview, the respondent told me about a phrase now poised to serve as a rallying cry in contemporary culture and the corporation.
Here’s the background.
Neko Case, the singer from the Pacific Northwest, was given an award recently. Playboy congratulated her in a patronizing way and Case let fly. Someone rebuffed her and Case rebuffed them.
Here it is play by play, tweet by tweet:
See the fuller context here.
My respondent says she hears the “Don’t Peggy Olson Me” phrase at work more and more.
What a thoroughly contemporary artifact. A show appears called Mad Men. It’s an old media contemplation of an age gone by. It features a character who comes to stand for the status of women in the present day. An artist used the character’s name as a verb to object to her treatment. Hey presto, a new media meme is born, and spoken language is a phrase richer. An issue (feminism) that has lost some of its standing in the public agenda is returned to visibility. The heat of people’s anger is reregistered, reemphasized.
This is contemporary culture, and its various wheels within wheels spinning as usual ferociously, with meaning skipping from old media to new media and back into the public eye.
One anthropological, the chief culture officer, question is how far will this phrase spread? At the moment, it is too small to show on Google Trends. I have asked a couple of people in London to let me know if it reaches them.
But I think we can still use Google Trends as a diffusion monitor. It is possible when searching a term to subscribe to a weekly report on the term. In this case, there is no report, but subscribing will, I hope, alert to me if and when the numbers for this phrase get more robust.
I can’t find a way to draw on an image within WordPress, but see “Subscribe” in bold in the upper-right-hand corner of this clip.
It’s never occurred to me before to treat people as detectors, as trip wires, and ask them to report when they first hear a phrase. That plus a Google Trend, should help a little to show us how fast this social innovation is traveling.
I would be grateful if readers who’ve heard the phrase would let us know when and where they did. If you haven’t heard the phrase, it would be great if you could report back when you do.