Is this it is this the end what sequence of events brought me to this point

Here’s a quiz: without browsing the internet, have the right to you name the resource of this quote?

One character asks: "What does it do?" Anvarious other replies: "It doesn’t perform anything. That’s the beauty of it.”

I asked The Verge’s culture Sabsence room this question last week, and right here are some of the answers I obtained.

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The Big LebowskiBruce AlmightyOffice SpaceThe Hudsucker Proxy“Some corpoprice movie wbelow they offer stuff”“The movie through Reggie Watts”“Doesn’t this quote not exist?”

As far as anyone knows, eextremely single among these guesses is wrong, consisting of the last one.

The quote in question, or a variation that flips the last 2 sentences, has been appearing on message boards since at leastern 2003. If you ask wbelow it’s from, people will frequently throw out answers immediately; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Willy Wonka and also the Chocolate Factory, and The Simpsons are all well-known answers. But once pressed, nobody have the right to uncover it in the place they remember. It’s a maddeningly tantalizing social mystery, and also it’s made even weirder by the truth that tright here are at leastern two plausible resources — yet chances are, you’ve never before encountered either.

The initially, which appears to have been discovered approximately 2008, is more than likely the most widely embraced. It’s a TV series referred to as Burke’s Law, which ran from 1963 to 1966. In the episode “Who Killed 711?,” a detective concerns (according to the IMDb summary) a murder suspect played by character actor Burgess Meredith. The detective notes that the man is building a curious machine, which leads to the complying with exchange:

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s my treatment. I’m still perfecting it.”

“What does it do?”

“Do?”

“What’s it for?”

“Well, nothing — nothing. I expect, that’s the beauty of it. Eextremely machine in the world does somepoint, however not mine.”


The scene is a strong feasible source. It gets across the interpretation of the statement, and it fits a case that’s regularly stated alongside it: an eccentric character structure or explaining a useless machine. But as a quote, it’s much less elegant than the simple call-and-response civilization remember. The operative pieces are break-up up by two superfluous lines, and also Meredith’s character delivers his answer through clumsy filler words. (He also, incidentally, states “nothing” instead of “doesn’t execute anything.”) It’s basic to imagine dialogue from a little-well-known show mutating over 40 years. But a much closer version — in fact, an practically verbatim one — exists somewhere else.

That location is a 1987 play dubbed Apocalyptic Butterflies, a comedy around the tense connection of a couple named Hank and also Muriel Tater. In the play, the pair’s troubles are complicated by Hank’s father Dick, an eccentric knickknack collector that dumps four thousand also dollars’ worth of totem poles on their lawn. At one suggest, Dick shows up through a truckpack of painted wood butterflies, and also Hank voices his confusion.

“What is it?”

“It’s a butterfly.”

“What does it DO?”

“Doesn’t carry out anything, that’s the beauty of it. You nail ‘em to your home, your mailbox, provides it distinctive.”

While there’s no mad scientist right here, this is a direct match for the 3 iconic lines, through the exemption of one missing “it.” For anyone who’s seen the play, it’s an extremely likely candiday. But that doesn’t deal with the greatest issue for both Burke’s Law and Apocalyptic Butterflies — exactly how many kind of people watched either one? Neither has broad mainstream popularity, especially for anyone born after they premiered. Nor is tbelow a major cult adhering to that can have turned the quote into a meme, spreading it to outsiders. There’s no flash of relief and also recognition once they’re stated, only more concerns.

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One forum short article says a radio DJ could have actually sampled the Burke’s Law clip and given it wide exposure, but there’s no evidence this taken place. The Apocalyptic Butterflies exadjust, meanwhile, wasn’t discovered by somebody recalling a long-forgained memory. It appears to have been uncovered by a Reddit user with the handle gunbladezero, that states he uncovered it by looking the quote on Google Books. “I"d never before heard of the play in question prior to finding it,” he claims. “I actually have no concept if or how frequently it"s been performed/quoted — so it might not be a resource as a lot as proof that the phrase had actually currently been in usage.”


Knowing the potential sources actually makes points even more confusing

You deserve to, in truth, discover bits and also pieces of the exadjust elsewhere. But they’re even even more loosely connected than the Burke’s Law scene. In Larry Niven and also Edward Lerner’s novel Juggler of Worlds, for instance, a character responds to “What does it do?” with “It’s beautiful! Why does it have to execute anything?” A Simpsons episode has Homer asking Lisa “How does it work?” of a supposed tiger-driving away rock, through Lisa replying “It doesn’t work-related.” But none concisely evoke the absurdity of something’s extremely uselessness being beautiful, which is why the lines are so memorable in the first location.

Apocalyptic Butterflies writer Wendy MacLeod learned of the quote’s definition a couple of years earlier, courtesy of an arts professor who taught the phenomenon in a course. “I was interested that the only frame of recommendation for those posting seemed to be famous culture — movies, The Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” writes MacLeod. “The fact that it came from a play (or even a novel) never before arisen to anybody!” (As for the alternative concept, MacLeod says she’s never checked out Burke’s Law.)

MacLeod, who has actually written nearly a dozen plays given that Apocalyptic Butterflies, has actually a concept about just how her quote can have trickled right into the cumulative unconscious. “The play premiered at Yale Repertory Theater once I was in my last year at Yale Drama School,” she recalls. “Many of my peers tbelow currently job-related in film and also tv, so perhaps they remembered the play and also quoted it accidentally or on function.”


“I believed tbelow need to be some unique phonetic quality to it.”

The longer the quote gets discussed, the likelier it is that world will hear it in somepoint riffing on the original mystery. Web artist and also musician Neil Stephen Cicierega based a whole song, “The Machine,” on it in 2008. “I probably first experienced a thcheck out around it circa 2004 or 2005 on the Something Awful forums,” says Cicierega. “It was absolutely a tiny eerie just how the quote appeared familiar to everybody yet nobody could location it. I assumed tright here have to be some one-of-a-kind phonetic high quality to it and wrote my song about it.” He ended up sampling the Burke’s Law clip, which he calls a “pretty cshed complement.”

Some theories start promisingly enough, just to collapse beneath the slightest inspection. A few forum articles claim that the phrase’s true resource is unwell-known, yet that it was popularized in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, well after it appeared virtual. The short articles are remarkably confident, supposedly consisting of straight transcripts of a very plausible exadjust between two specific personalities. I watched the entire film for this post — and at leastern in the main cut, it’s not there.


The totality mystery is reminiscent of the Mandela Effect: a mass misremembering of some story, quote, or occasion. (Or, relying on your perspective, evidence of take a trip between parallel universes.) Even the most too much Mandela Effect cases, though, frequently have actually clear roots — prefer the nonexistent film Shazaam, which skeptics can define as a portmanteau of Kazaam and its star Shaq.

“That’s the beauty of it” is tougher to pin dvery own, and also no explanation is really satisfying. Did people mangle an exreadjust between 2 characters in a greatly forobtained detective show? Did they subconsciously remember someone else quoting a quip from a play? Did forum posters collaboratively weave it together from a number of different stories? Was it falsified as part of a social experiment, yet generic sufficient to have really appeared in fiction?

“It still feels like there"s an noticeable answer out tright here that everyone"s forgaining,” says Cicierega. But years of exhaustive searcs have actually fairesulted in perform even more than chip ameans at the mystery. Brief of a significant discovery, or someone coming forward and proving they developed the totality thing as a joke, it might not ever before be addressed.

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Personally, there’s no mystery behind where I initially heard the exadjust. I discovered it in 2006, quoted on my college boyfriend’s LiveJournal page.