A “Barrel Roll” is originally an aerial maneuver in which an airplane rotates around both its longitudinal and its lateral axis, the complete motion forming the shape of a helix.
However, the phrase “Do a Barrel Roll” had become a popular internet sensation due to a Google easter egg. If a user writes the phrase into the Google search bar, the search engine first shows the results, then proceeds to flip the site, doing a “Barrel Roll.”
The expression is also used in a wide array of other scenarios online, especially in the comment section of streams, prompting the broadcaster to perform the trick in a video game or somewhere else.
Alternatively, “Do a Barrel Roll” may be used to express disinterest in the problems of someone else, suggesting they fix their life by doing the trick. This use of the phrase may also be applied as the answer to a silly question or a prank setup.
The phrase stems from Star Fox 64, a 1997 video game in which the character called “Peppy Hare” demands that you perform a “Barrel Roll” so that you avoid enemy lasers.
This was later turned into a meme online, appearing on various forums and message boards, related to gaming.
It was later discovered that the Star Fox 64 maneuver is, in fact, not a “Barrel Roll”, but the internet meme persisted nevertheless.
The expression was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2004, then it began seeing use as a catchphrase on 4chan around 2007.
The popularity of “Do a Barrel Roll” was massively boosted in 2011, when Google issued a new feature in the search engine, flipping the results, if one searches the phrase.
If one does a search on “Do a Barrel Roll”, Google will also display www.elgoog.im in the results, which is a link to another Google easter egg; Google Mirror. This is a regular Google browser, but mirrored (elgoog mirrored is google), which represents the lateral turn of the original aerial maneuver.
The phrase also gained an increase in popularity during prank calls received by Tom Green in The Midnight Caller Show, asking him to “Do a Barrel Roll”.
The meme’s popularity persisted online over the years, appearing in Google searches as well as video game streams regularly. “Do a Barrel Roll” is a meme, that is likely to stay.