A Brief Overview of JT Dobbs’ Trumang Tweet

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Yesterday, Andy Baio had an interesting post on the “Trump Is a Comment Section Running for President” Joke. Andy did a reverse chronology on a quip that’s recently cropped up in many places, though at least one ancestor first appeared way back in 2011.

2339 days before Andy’s post, my friend JT Dobbs1 tweeted this:

The word tsunami is not in my phone's T9 dictionary, so if you ever get a text from me that says Trumang!, get the fuck off the beach.

As you can see, this tweet was from 2009, two years after the debut of the iPhone. Yet JT still had a flip phone riddled with disgusting buttons. Such phones used a simple predictive text system called T9, which attempted to make it faster to type on their numeric keypad. It worked somewhat like the type-ahead systems now used on iOS and Android, though it was more tedious and less convenient.

Anyhow, in the six and a half years since the tweet was first posted, the joke has circled the globe , reaching hundreds of thousands of people. Just five days after he first posted it, JT noticed that the tweet had a lot of traction, especially given how small Twitter was at the time. Since then, it’s continued to spread via retweets both ad-hoc and official (after that feature was implemented in 2010), as well as all manner of knock-offs. Unattributed duplicates are incredibly easy to find, thanks to Twitter’s powerful search.

You can find versions with the profanity toned down, like this one from an Australian comedian:

The word 'tsunami' is not in my phone's text dictionary.
So if you ever get a text from me saying, Trumang!!! get the HELL off the beach.

As well as versions that have been cleaned-up entirely, like this one from a Twitter account run by a self-professed lover of all things Disney:

Remember: My autocorrect text dictionary doesn’t have the word “tsunami” so if you ever get a text from me that says “trumang” start running.

It’s also interesting to note that with the rise of smartphones, the setup to the joke has been modified to use autocorrupt as the premise. The switch is understandable, but it’s not terribly believable.

There are also tweets where the poster has modified the wording quite a bit, perhaps in an effort to make it their own:

My predictive text dictionary doesn’t have the word tsunami, so if you ever get a text from me that says trumang start fuckin bookin it!

As well as those which alter the format entirely:

my phone tries to correct tsunami to trumang ....so if you ever get a text saying trumang RUN!!!

With the aforementioned Trump joke, the premise rings so true that it’s likely multiple people independently arrived at the same crack. By contrast, when it comes to “Trumang”, there’s little doubt that JT is the original and sole author. That made-up word is a dead giveaway and all the other tweets are ripping him off, either directly or indirectly. How do these people first encounter a joke that’s now old enough to be in kindergarten? And once they do, what leads them to misappropriate it, editing and rewriting it? We’ll probably never know. Regardless, despite a decent amount of awareness of these rip-offs…

The words copyright infringement aren't in my T9 dictionary, so if you ever get a text from me that says Trumang!, delete your tweet.

…the knock-offs continue to appear.

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