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“I Like Turtles” is a phrase first uttered by ten-year-old Jonathan Ware during a local news interview at the Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon. Following its broadcast and the subsequent upload to YouTube in late May 2007, Jonathan’s curt response to the reporter’s lackluster question went viral, inspiring a slew of video remixes and memorabilia on the web.
On May 31st, 2007, ten-year-old Jonathan Ware was visiting the Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon. During his visit to the fair, Jonathan had his face painted to look like a Zombie and was approached by the KGW local news correspondent Nancy Francis. When asked to comment about his face paint on camera, Jonathan tersely responded “I like turtles.” A copy of the KGW newscast was uploaded online ten days after the broadcast by YouTuber 3mediapro, who seemed to have recognized early on that such moment of on-air awkwardness was too valuable to let slip away.
Nancy Francis: “Back here live at the Waterfront Village with my friend the zombie, Jonathon. You’re looking good, Jonathon. Jonathon just got an awesome face paint job. What do you think?”
Jonathan: I like turtles!
Throughout June 2007, the clip went viral on YouTube, racking in millions of views while spawning dozens of parodies and mashup videos featuring Jonathan’s one-liner. Around the same time, several t-shirts bearing the catchphrase emerged on e-merchandise sites like Zazzle, Snorgtees, CafePress, Screened and Shirtstastegood.
Although the boy and his family were initially unaware of the viral sensation during its onset, Jonathan’s sister eventually discovered her brother’s fame on Myspace in early July, and by August, the local news station KGW had reunited with the Wares family for a follow-up interview to hear their reaction to Jonathan’s newfound internet fame.
On September 15th, 2010, Jonathan appeared on an episode of Tosh.0 as part of the “web redemption” series. He explained that on the day the video was recorded, he had just seen a turtle exhibit before having his face painted, and that was why he had turtles on his mind.
On November 3rd, 2007, an entry for “I like turtles” was submitted to Urban Dictionary, which defined the phrase as “a response to a boring question that you don’t feel like answering. It may also, in rare cases, express one’s true love of turltes.” Even years after the video went viral, Jonathan’s legacies were recognized by the now-defunct viral media news site Urlesque in its column series “The 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos” in April 2009.
Google Search queries for the phrase “I like turtles” saw the biggest spike in July of 2007, around a month after the original video was uploaded to YouTube. Search queries saw a second spike in September of 2010, which may correspond with the Tosh.0 appearance.