Janece Harrington, 17, posed a simple question Saturday on Twitter wondering how people pronounce “caramel.”
The tweet read, “How do you pronounce caramel? Rt if you say: (care-a-mel) Like if you say: (car-mull)”
For non-Twitter users, rt means “retweet.”
She had a few responses on the day she posted it, Harrington said.
At the time, she was visiting Los Angeles with her mother, Tonya. They went to the mall the next morning and her phone started buzzing constantly. The internet had jumped on her question.
“It was Twitter notifications going on like crazy,” Harrington said.
The responses had grown to 200 likes and 100 retweets and then she said it blew up to the point she had to turn notifications off on her phone.
By July 3, the internet was taking notice. Harrington had gone viral.
“I thought it was kind of crazy,” she said.
A friend texted her and told her she was mentioned in a story on the BuzzFeed website, which called it a Twitter war.
The idea for the tweet came from a discussion she had while on a trip to Washington, D.C., with a Nolin RECC youth tour, she said. Harrington talked with other teens about how weird the English language can be. That’s when caramel was brought up.
A few weeks passed and she still was thinking about it and decided to put the pronunciation question on Twitter.
Harrington had no idea it would make her famous on the internet.
“I knew people were passionate about food but didn’t know they’d argue about it,” she said. “If you read through all the comments, you could see how passionate people are.”
People are rude about it sometimes, she said, calling each other names for choosing one over the other.
“It’s crazy that people are that offensive about it,” Harrington said.
She read the first 100 or so tweets, but there were too many to read them all. As of Thursday night the tweet had 61,550 retweets, 150,890 likes and 917 replies.
The reaction came from around the world. She read some comments from England and Scotland.
“It’s kind of crazy because I’ve had a lot of people text me,” Harrington said.
It also was a little stressful for her — so much so she’s turned her phone notifications off for a while.
She doesn’t think starting another similar conversation will grow as big as this. But people have been commenting about other pronunciation questions, she said.
Harrington will be a senior at Central Hardin High School in the fall and thinks her viral internet fame will disappear by then.
Her family has had a lot of laughs about it and she said they’ve all been confused about why people have reacted the way they did over a simple tweet.
For the record, Harrington pronounces it “care-a-mel.”
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