Pittsburgh has a Twitter celebrity — but it might not be who you think.
The anonymously run account @shitduosays compiles “linguistic gold provided by Duolingo” through retweets and screenshots of some of the most intriguing phrases coming from East Liberty-headquartered Duolingo’s language learning app. Started in 2013 by someone closely connected to the company — yes, that’s all we’re allowed to share about their identify — the account has amassed a following of over 85,000 on the social media platform, gaining even more traction in the last year as Duolingo, which just filed to go public earlier this summer, saw usage explode during the pandemic.
From quintessential cat memes (see below) to existential musings to sentences that were ironically perfect reflections of quarantine lifestyles, @shitduosays has become one of those increasingly rare warm and fuzzy places on the internet. Technical.ly recently caught up over email with the person behind the parody account to learn more about the initial inspiration, where they find the content and, of course, which of the account’s tweets are their favorite.
— Shit Duolingo Says (@shitduosays) September 16, 2020
Technical.ly: When and why did you start the account? Did you take inspiration from any other parody accounts online?
@shitduosays: Although I currently manage the account, it was started by a friend of mine who then asked me to take it over. Anyone who uses Duolingo has probably encountered some of the wacky and ridiculous phrases that the app teaches (I know I have!), and the account was initially started in 2013 as a way of sharing these phrases — especially since many people had been tweeting them on their own even before @shitduosays was a thing.
Did you see activity around the account increase during the pandemic as Duolingo usage went up? How did you engage with the community more as everyone went online?
One thing we noticed was that people were tweeting lots of phrases that felt very relevant to the pandemic times we’ve been living in — things like this and this. I also tweeted a bunch of 2020-esque phrases over the course of the year, like these here. Then in late 2020, the @duolingo account tweeted a call for “the most 2020 phrases” people had seen in the app and I retweeted to see what the @shitduosays crowd had to contribute and got some pretty on-the-nose responses, from things like “She has caught a virus” to “Float or swim but above all don’t sink” and even stuff like “You have to vote.”
even duolingo gets the 2020 vibes pic.twitter.com/xqG3icYzJo
— Shit Duolingo Says (@shitduosays) June 8, 2020
Even before the pandemic, what did you do to increase your following? Last I checked you were up to 86.5K followers.
Honestly, I don’t pay too much mind to how many followers we have! When I took the account over a couple of years ago, it was closer to 40K followers. It’s been nice to see growth over time but my main goal here is to really just provide quality content on people’s timelines.
How do you find new content for your page? I know that a lot comes from retweets by Duolingo users, but you’ve also posted your own screenshots (like this one). How do you find new phrases, and how do you decide which are worth posting?
For the phrases that I post from the account myself, my not-so-secret weapon is the Shit Duolingo Says subreddit — that place is an absolute goldmine for wacky and wild Duolingo phrases and it’s a super active community of people sharing on a daily basis. I have also shared phrases that I’ve personally come across in my own lessons and most of what I like to do is retweet others who post screenshots from their lessons.
I noticed you have your Twitter DMs turned off and operate the account anonymously, so I have to ask: Why the secrecy?
What can I say, I live a life of mystery and intrigue.
But in all seriousness, I prefer to stay anonymous and let followers focus on the content that’s shared vs. who’s running the account.
What’s your favorite phrase that you’ve come across while running this account?
Wow, that’s like asking me to choose my favorite (non-existent) child … but since you asked, I will have to go with one that truly sums up 2020, from the Norwegian course: “I am eating bread and crying on the floor.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-