I've never seen such a reaction to a question on ELU as to What does “covfefe” exactly mean?

100k views in a single day, and probably more to come. The question was put on hold at around 70k views but, unlike all other question which generally slow down and exit from the Hot Network Questions, this one kept the pace and never stopped.

What are the dynamics here? What's keeping this question so active? Why is it behaving differently from all other HNQ questions?

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    Because the highly controversial and unprecedentedly visible reality TV celebrity President of the United States of America tweeted a mysterious nonsense word and every news media outlet in the world picked up the story and ran with it? It's been dominating more than EL&U for the last couple of days -- it's been dominating the news cycle and entire internet. Hardly surprising it's grabbing a lot of eyeballs here too. – Dan Bron Jun 1 '17 at 19:35
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    It's probably a typo in place of "coverage". – NVZ Jun 1 '17 at 20:39
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    Stackexchange questions get ranked pretty high in google searches, and everyone in the world is googling for the string of letters. I'm surprised people are even giving this a second thought because it is so obviously non English and a typo. – Mitch Jun 1 '17 at 23:11
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    covfefe, meaning: an unintended coinage by typo from a(s) (uneducated) conman. – Lambie Jun 2 '17 at 14:15
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    One reason is people keep updating their answers, so that the answer gets sent back to the top of the question queue. Another is that people keep on writing meta-questions that link to the answer, driving more views. Also, I don't think your question here is on topic. – Arm the good guys in America Jun 2 '17 at 17:27
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    @Josh. Interesting question. By the way, it was 100,000 visits in a single day yesterday, and the views doubled, mounted to 202,000 (with 40 up-voted) in 27 hours after posting the question. The on-topic subject today turns off-topic tomorrow. Off-topic subject yesterday turns on-topic today. You cannot draw the line between on-topic and off-topic. It’s absolutely judgmental. You cannot verify on-off by number. There's no objective measurement nor guage. Those who say this specific question on Mr. Trump’s wording off-topic, I doubt, don't understand the nature and reality of language, . – Yoichi Oishi Jun 3 '17 at 0:43
  • Cont: which is a living creature.This is a simple but unstoppable phenomenon that broad users are resisting a conventional Scholastic concept of "off-topic" which only passes in the small world of EL&U. It's better for off-topic propagandists to open their eyes to alternative reality as someone commends. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 3 '17 at 0:47
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    @Clare you're expressing your annoyance at the question, which I have absolute respect for. Surely you're not being literal? (Regarding hundreds of users per minute flocking to a question because they followed a link on META?) – RaceYouAnytime Jun 3 '17 at 1:34
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    @YoichiOishi I am on your side on the issue of this question, but in my opinion, you go too far when you say "You cannot draw the line between on-topic and off-topic. It’s absolutely judgmental." The question of on- vs. off-topic is indubitably subjective, but it's also important to the utility of the site. – RaceYouAnytime Jun 3 '17 at 1:41
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    @YoichiOishi I was the 2nd person to VTC your question -- that was before the furor built up and the question was still then a modest question about a typo. Then, the tsunami! So I voted to reopen about 12 hours after I voted to close, recognizing that this had passed beyond a question about a typo, and that ELU looked prissy in keeping the question closed. The answer of RaceYouAnytime influenced me to change my mind. This question will make it more adulting to efine what is off-topic; A paradigm change may be in process. – ab2 Jun 3 '17 at 3:18
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    @ab2. Thanks. I appreciate your point. 'Covefefe' could have been a mere typo three days ago. But it metamophosed into a new meme now that mass-media in every corner of the world started play with it. Even I changed my thought in two days, after observing the mouning number of responses. It has now another life. 215k visits clearly testifies the nature of word metamorphosis. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 3 '17 at 8:23
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    @YoichiOishi can't argue with that point. But I don't think the public will remember covfefe next month, or even next week. It's just an overnight sensation, and public memory is like that of a goldfish, or so I've heard. – NVZ Jun 3 '17 at 13:56
  • @NVZ One day covfefe, the very next day, withdrawal from the Paris Accords. I predict that the two will be linked and that covfefe will endure. Too bad that there is no legal currency with which to bet on ELU! – ab2 Jun 3 '17 at 14:32
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    @NVZ - You never know what will stick in people's minds. There are some Dan Quayle bloopers I will never forget. – aparente001 Jun 4 '17 at 16:20
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    Must have been all of Trump's Twitter bots checking in. – Hot Licks Jun 5 '17 at 23:56

It means it got a high rank in Google for some common searches. It's number 3 on the Google searches for "covfefe meaning" and "what does covfefe mean" at the moment:

Question is number 3 on Google

While some users may not be especially proud of this particular question, this is a good sign for the site. It means that Google is ranking English.SE highly and drawing traffic for people trying to understand what words and phrase mean. Congratulations on your success!

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    It will be interesting to see, if at the end of the year -- Hat Time -- there will be a covfete hat. Change f to t and one has a bilingual typo for cover head. – ab2 Jun 5 '17 at 23:37
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    SE ranks high because the OP's question contains the very words you typed, but if you type "cofeve typo" google.com/#q=covefe+typo or "cofeve misspelling" google.com/… SE English does not appear on the first page. – Mari-Lou A Jun 6 '17 at 3:38
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    @Mari-LouA And the exact words I typed are going to be a very common search. That said, your example searches don't even contain the correct typo. It's "covfefe," not "covefe" or "cofeve". – jpmc26 Jun 6 '17 at 5:14
  • Ha, you're right about the first link! Even the typo of a typo produce google results. But the 2nd link has the right "typo" despite my misspelling in the comment. – Mari-Lou A Jun 6 '17 at 5:40
  • @Mari-LouA It's also currently first on "covfefe meaning": google.com/#q=covfefe+meaning. So it looks like it'll rank highly on any search containing "meaning". – jpmc26 Jun 6 '17 at 5:45

I've been pondering this as well. Since the question was posted, I saw strong arguments for closing the question and now also for reopening it.

On the one hand, the typo itself and the question as phrased have nothing to do with English. No one had heard of "covfefe" before Trump finger-mashed it into existence on twitter. If we analyzed every typo that landed on the Internet, we'd have our hands full.

On the other hand, the level of interest in an "accidental" word has never been so high. This is uncharted territory in the field of words. All search engines have placed this post high on a query for "what does covfefe mean?" It's difficult to argue that the people who click on that top link – ours – benefit more from seeing "on-hold as off-topic" than would benefit from the aggregate thinking of the site. Although the question yielded some rubbish answers that were downvoted six-feet below the footer, it also yielded some interesting answers, including a computer program analyzing likely words that would yield such a typo.

Who knows what else thoughtful users might have come up with?

Yes, full disclosure, I answered as well. But I don't care if people vote my answer up or down (I'm about to give away all my points from that answer in a bounty anyway). I'm just curious what potentially good answers might be missed because the post is closed.

People will likely downvote this answer, and I'm fine with that. I fully understand the desire to keep the site serious and the sentiment that questions like this stray from that goal, I just can't help but marvel at the interesting position the site is in by receiving so much attention.


Isn't it obvious?

It's a typo from the leader of the free world, who's always in the news, for some bad thing or something worse, and this typo was a funny story, which gave people a break from all the boring scandals and "fake news" and stuff, and naturally, people just took it up and ran with it, all day, every channel, covfefeying the news out of it.

It's gained more views from Google than it did from HNQ, and I don't​ know it for a fact, I just know it's true.


As you mentioned, my question about “covfefe” in Mr. Trump’s tweet attracted 100k views in the first day, and it built up to 257k views as of today. The gross 257k number far surpasses the total number of 156k users of EL&U, which means more than a half of the visitors to my question were coming from Google or other online sources.

When I searched for the word, “covfefe” on Google before posting the question (on May 31st 22:05, according to EL&U), there wasn’t any headings relevant to this word, and that’s why I posted this question in EL&U to get a clue.

I left home at 09:30 after posting the question, and I was surprised to find around 70k views on my post when I came home around 15:00.

I think a large part of the visitors approached Google at first to get the meaning of the word, “covfefe,” and found my question at the top of the search results, and then came to EL&U to look for my question.

A user ridiculed me in his answer: It means "a method for increasing your English.SX reputation overnight by leveraging Donald Trump's gaffes," which was later deleted by a moderator.

I think the unconventionally large number of views to my question is simply because it’s the word given publicly (and officially?) by the President of the United States of America, not the word of common people like you and me. The word turned into a monster meme and is walking around the world. You cannot laugh it away as a mere typo. It starts to have a meaning of its own.

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    So five days later, what does covfefe mean today? Does it have a unique meaning? Questions on EL&U that are about typos have nearly always been closed by the community as being off topic, it shouldn't matter who the offender is, be it an editor, publisher, the POTUS or a man off the street. EL&U is about the English language, it's not about interpreting what someone meant to write in the middle of the night who then realises their mistake and deletes it five hours later. The 200+K views show topicality and popularity not an earnest need to understand by NNSs. – Mari-Lou A Jun 5 '17 at 7:34
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    I look forward to seeing you one day defend someone else's question as being on topic because they are a NNS and the question is about a nonsense word or an evident typo. – Mari-Lou A Jun 5 '17 at 7:36
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    @Mari Lou A. First, I'm not inclined to brand 268k viewers of my question just as the nutsboys who visited the site for fun and fuss. Second, I've casted down vote only twice five-year ago over six year's EL&U tenure. I've never casted down votes nor close votes, unless I was requested as a moderator, much less for the subject of off / on topic, which I think belongs totally to individual's subjective view. Can you prove it mathematically? When I am provoked I react harshly as you know because I have the right to duly respond the attack. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 5 '17 at 9:40
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    Cont. But I've never opened a fire from my side, unless I'm challenged. It's my belief as a non-native English speaker as well as a sinful man, I'm not qualified to comment, criticize and denounce others' view and their post. I've tried to keep fairness and quality of my questions ever since I joined this site, which I believe is verified with the kinds and number of budges I have earned to date. I think I made my point enough through the main frame, chat and here. I wouldn't add to any more comment. Last but not least, I appreciate your answer to my post, which I found highly informative. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 5 '17 at 9:41
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    @YoichiOishi Don't you think it's a little problematic that a mod has never cast down votes or close votes? What do you do to uphold the community determined standards of this site? – curiousdannii Jun 5 '17 at 13:25
  • @curiousdannii It's mainly an honorary title. Yoichi has been around for quite some time. :) – NVZ Jun 5 '17 at 14:09
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    @NVZ The privileges it grants, though perhaps not exercised very frequently, are not merely honorary. I also don't understand the purpose in making someone an honorary mod who is essentially opposed to the Stack Exchange model of community moderation. – curiousdannii Jun 5 '17 at 14:13
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    @curiousdannii He was not merely appointed by SE, he was in fact elected in 2014 by the users. So he is as qualified as any other. I would like to prove that even an old Asian can be a candidate for moderator of the international language enthusiasts’ web site to my peers and contemporaries. -- His promise. – NVZ Jun 5 '17 at 14:16
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    @curiousdannii Didn't you read what I wrote - I've never casted down votes nor close votes, UNLESS I was REQUESTED as a moderator? I use to view the moderator's inbox, and cast "useful," "close" "delete" votes as I find I have to. But I've never initiated down / close vote voluntarily in the Q&A page - I don't know the terminology for it, Could be 'Covfefe.' (By the way, we started to use this word in the sense of a dubious word and strange idea in our ESS circle). I do Close / Delete vote when I'm REQUESTED. Only the reason for my raising hand for moderator election in 2014 was – Yoichi Oishi Jun 5 '17 at 20:48
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    Cont: to let the voice and view of non-native English speakers like me, who never lived in Anglophone countries be reflected on the community where native English speakers are majority, as a member of the world,. I said I won't be involved in any further discussion on this question. I think I made my point enough since I posted the question. So this is the last time I respond to you. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 5 '17 at 20:51
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    @YoichiOishi I expect mods to be a little more proactive than that. You're not just here to rubber stamp closures. As a mod you're also a regular member, and as a regular member you should be participating in community moderation. No one requests down votes from the mods - you should just be doing that anyway when you see badly written questions. – curiousdannii Jun 5 '17 at 23:41
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    @curiousdannii 23 I. Unfortunately, I never have rubber-stamped on anything all through my business career, and in this community. But I'm not a Close / Down vote fan. The fact is I have more often salvaged posts branded to Close / Delete from being thrown into a trash box otherwise, and marked them "useful." I believe Japanese maxim which I once posted a question asking for English counterpart in EL&U - It's a momentary shame for you to ask a question, no matter how it looks silly to others, but it's an eternal shame for you not to ask the question. – Yoichi Oishi Jun 6 '17 at 0:24

I can see from the question's revision history, this post was Tweeted on Twitter.

This also helped to reach many users from Twitter to visited this post.

ELU Twitter

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    Every question that isn't closed super quickly is tweeted. This particular question's tweet has no hearts or retweets so I really doubt that it had any impact at all. – curiousdannii Jun 6 '17 at 10:21

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