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Five years ago Thursday, former British member of parliament Ed Balls attempted to search for his own name on Twitter. He failed: instead of typing “Ed Balls” into the search field, he tweeted it.
The flub immediately swept the nation, due in no small part to the humorous fact that our subject’s name is essentially “Edward Testicles,” and “Ed Balls” soon became U.K. Twitter’s “I am Spartacus.”
Everyone was tweeting “Ed Balls.” And they kept doing it, every April 28th thereafter. Ed Balls Day has been woven into the fabric of British culture—so indelibly that the Guardian wondered last year, “on this fourth Ed Balls Day, has the hype become too much?”
ed balls 4 evr ⚪️⚫️🔴🔵
— becky w split ends (@eehouls) April 28, 2016
Apparently, it has not. Seemingly the only person in Britain who can’t gleefully participate in Ed Balls Day is Balls himself.
“The trouble with the day itself is that there is a dilemma,” he explained to the New Statesman in 2015, “There’s one group of people who think if I don’t engage somehow on the day, I’m a bad sport. And if I do engage, there’ll be another whole group of people who’ll say: ‘Oh, God, he’s ruined it.’ I can’t win and I sort of know that, so I don’t really mind.”’
Balls’ reputation grew after the first Ed Balls Day, and he positioned himself to become Chancellor if Labour emerged victorious in last year’s general election—but oh, Balls, they didn’t, and Balls himself narrowly lost his seat in Parliament.
No matter. Ed Balls Day is bigger than one man, and this year proves it will endure beyond Balls’ political career. His legacy, it seems, will come down to one dumb tweet.
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2011
Ed Balls today. Ed Balls tomorrow. Ed Balls forever.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.