The Proper Response: What You Say!!

Most-referenced phrase from the Engrish-translated intro story to the video game Zero Wing. Briefly immortalized on Something Awful in an extremely long forum thread containing posters' attempts (of varying quality) to edit photographs so that the phrase was contained within them. (Example: Family Feud picture with "All Your Base Are Belong to Us!!" as the answer displayed on the board behind the host).

Addendum:

When I wrote the above in late December of 2000, I had no idea how suddenly this one phrase, now officially dubbed an Internet meme, would spread. As of late February 2001, the Zero Wing intro story has been set to at least 5 types of music, mentioned in Time magazine, Photoshopped into hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures, and subjected to a war over who noted the phrase and started the whole thing in the first place (I still believe it was Something Awful).

For your own personal edification, brought to you here today is the transcript of the scene in question from Zero Wing. This is credited to the wonderful translators, as well as the person who wrote this transcription. I copied and pasted it long ago to save for myself, and have since lost the address...

The screen fades to black. Gradually words begin to scroll:
Alpha are I and the Omega,
are first and last,
the Beginning am and the End.

(The screen comes up on a wide starfield. Slowly the camera pans over the top of the Eldridge, a giant interplanetary migrant vessel. The camera passes over an opening in the roof of the ship, through which a cargo bay is visible; a warning light begins to flash, and the cargo bay seals itself automatically. We follow the camera up through the window of the ship's bridge, where the lights go down as alarms begin to sound, and the monitors display a long line of red lights.)

CAPTAIN: What happen?

COMPUTER: This is an emergency, Level 3 alert.

CREWMEMBER 1: (tapping rapidly on a computer display, which shows a genetic sequence restructuring) Somebody set up us the bomb.

CAPTAIN: Take off every "Zig." You know what you doing.

CREWMEMBER 2: Roger! (She opens a control panel and flips a lever. Somewhere in the depths of the ship, a huge section of wall falls away; seconds later, the gap in the wiring is bridged by blue shocks of energy.)

CREWMEMBER 1: (scrolling through a computer display showing a vortex-like thing and space displacement and so on) We get signal!

CAPTAIN: (stands up, in shock) What!

(As the captain stares on and other crew members begin to get to their feet, the words "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" begin scrolling across the screen over and over, followed shortly after by "YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME. HA HA HA!!")

CAPTAIN: (staring at screen in horror) What you say!!

CREWMEMBER 2: Captain!

CAPTAIN: (slowly, with great deliberation) ...Move "Zig." For great justice!

(Meanwhile, the PILOT, who has been laughing hysterically through the entire sequence, finally loses it. He falls out of his chair and bangs his head against the computer panel, causing the ship to lose control and crash into a nearby planet, where it explodes in a fiery inferno of destruction...)

Fade to black...

(The camera pans across the wreckage of the fallen craft... slowly, it zooms in on the muddy water beside a chunk of burning wreckage, where a human-like figure sits huddled on the ground. Slowly, the figure gets to its feet; it is completely nude, with long grey hair, a beard and mustache, and a conspicuous lack of a nose.)

MAN: Xeno... gears... is gear... tat are Xeno...

(The camera zooms in on his eye, where we see leftover pieces of the ship falling to earth in the breaking dawn.)

MAN: (standing on the beach with his hair blowing in the wind) Ability is a skill you learn with Job training! You spoony bard! This guy are sick! Off course!

(Slowly, the scene fades into white.)

VOICE-OVER: Born from the fallen wreckage, "he" slowly arose, his eyes reflecting the start of the day "bad translations" fell to earth

I suppose somebody should provide the "real" translation of the Japanese dialogue here. Straight from GameFAQs.com:

A.D. 2101
The war began


Outside Ship - An explosion occurs.

Ship's Bridge
Captain: "What happened!?"
Mechanic: "Someone detonated bombs all around us!"

Close-Up of Excited Communications Officer
Operator: "Captain! Incoming transmission!"
Captain: "What!?"

Ship's Bridge
Operator: "Image coming through on the main monitor."
(CATS appears)
Captain: "You... you are...!!"

Close up of CATS
CATS: "You appear to be preoccupied, gentlemen." (sarcasm)
CATS: "Thanks to the cooperation of the UN forces, we've taken over all of your bases."
CATS: "Your ship too shall soon be destroyed."

Close up of captain & CATS
Captain: "Im.. Impossible!"
CATS: "We thank you for your cooperation." (more sarcasm)
CATS: "Enjoy the remaining moments of your lives...."

Ship's Bridge
CATS: "Hahahahaha ...."

Close up of Forlorn Captain
Operator: "Captain!?"

Ship's Bridge (ZIGs on monitors)
Captain: "Launch all ZIG fighters!"

Shows a ZIG pilot powering up
Captain: "We leave it up to them..."

Shows a ZIG moving into launch position
Captain: "Give us hope for our future..."

ZIGs on monitors, Bridge Explodes
Captain: "We're counting on you, ZIG!!"

The ship explodes.
A lone ZIG zooms into view!

translated by WooJin Lee and two sheepishly anonymous persons.

...and, in case you couldn't guess, that lone ZIG fighter is being piloted by you, the game player.

And so the adventure begins....

History of All Your Base Are Belong To Us

As you probably know, the phrase came from a badly translated video game intro. The game was Zero Wing, released on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive. The English version seems to have been a Europe-only release.

As to why it's so popular, that's a bit of a mystery. My personal opinion is that it's a perfect summary for the badly translated games of our youth. Not only that, but "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" and "FOR GREAT JUSTICE" are just plain random fun. Most of the early spread can be attributed to gamers. In many team games, the object is to capture, steal a flag from, or otherwise infiltrate the enemy's base. It's a natural fit with the phrase.

Here's the sequence of events:

  • 1989: Zero Wing's English version is released in Europe.
  • Mid 1998: A different version of the Zero Wing .gif is posted on the now-defunct Rage Games quote page. When the site morphs into Whazzat!, the .gif is replaced by text.
  • Late 1998/Early 1999: The current Zero Wing animated .GIF is posted on Zany Video Game Quotes, submitted by Seymont. It begins slowly circulating the internet.
  • Fall 1998: Zero Wing (the arcade version) is first emulated. The arcade version is missing the intro, but the ending has a similar translation.
  • March 13, 2000: Toaplan.com opens. The site contains info about Zero Wing and other Toaplan games.
  • June 5, 2000: The Zero Wing Dub Project is posted at OverClocked.
  • July 31, 2000: The Mistranslated Ship Captain becomes a guru at the True Meaning of Life
  • Summer 2000: The forums at Something Awful start to get infected. The .gif is in at least one person's signature. It gets posted with some regularity in various threads. A few people link back to the dub.
  • Fall 2000: According to one visitor, AYBABTU was appearing on Stile Project as the title and in images. This was reportedly a result of Jeff K.'s hack of the site - Stile liked it and kept it a while.
  • September 6, 2000: On the Something Awful forums, a gimmick poster called Alf posts a picture of Alf on the phone. Starscream adds a speech bubble saying "All your base are belong to us." It's a hit, and gets posted a few more times.
  • October 12, 2000: AYBABTU begins appearing on the relic.com forums.
  • November 6 - 21, 2000: The Something Awful era, and the origin of the Photoshopping
    • A thread is posted - The title is "ALL YUOR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!!" (yes, it was spelled "YUOR"), and the only message is "ON THE TABLE!!" By the end of the first page, the photoshopping had begun.
    • The first image, a skeleton from Army of Darkness, was done by Starscream (again!). 
    • Around page 10, word begins to spread. HardOCP is one of the first to link back to it.
    • Some of the pictures are incredible works of Photoshopping (like the Times Square pic done by The Yellow Yell).
    • Some sites, like Planet Namek, temporarily add AYBABTU to their pages. PN had it in their title tag for a couple of weeks.
    • The forums collapse in on themselves. Suddenly, the last couple of pages of the thread disappear.
    • A short time after, somebody using a hacked moderator account deletes the first page of the thread. This basicially kills the thread, since it no longer appears in the listings.
    • Finagler's archive of the early parts of the thread remains.
    • People who had been exposed to the phenomeon (mostly 3D game fans) take it back to their own boards, and similar threads (often using the same pictures) are started.
  • November 14, 2000: JRR, one of the SA forum regulars, releases Invasion of the Gabber Robots, the Zero Wing remix. 
  • November 28, 2000: A report/poll on the US elections appears on Ars Techinca: All Your Votes Are Belong to Us!! 
  • December 16, 2000: Tribal War's thread begins. As this is one of the oldest remaining threads, they are often mistakenly given credit for starting the phenomeon.
  • January 12, 2001: Part 4 of "A Winner Is You," Hubert's game quote-based storyline is posted. It passes completely beneath the pop culture radar.
  • January 14, 2001: Solidsharkey.com puts up a history. It's not as complete as this one, and may have some inaccuracies (WAS the Genesis version of ZW ever a US release? I can only find the info/ROM for a European version), but it is the first attempt at documenting ZW history. Note that I didn't find out about this until 10 minutes ago.
  • February 11, 2001: Eskimo Bob posts Episode 12: AD 2101
  • February 13, 2001: memepool.com posts about AYBABTU. They link to the Tribal War thread.
  • Approx. February 15, 2001: Bad_CRC of Tribal War releases the now-infamous music video. There are some copyright issues (permission wasn't asked to use JRR's song), but it continues to spread like wildfire.
  • February 16, 2001: Plastic reports the Flash video. 
  • February 18, 2001:
    • Salamando's Stove posts an article called The Death of Zerowing, about the phrase's overuse. Seems it still has some life left in it, though...
    • On a lighter note, web comic Avalon's guest strip features the Zero Wing dialog.
  • February 19, 2001:
    • GameFaqs posts a FAQ for Zero Wing (authored by Frank Provo), which includes a better translation taken from the Japanese version.
    • id Software releases an add-on level pack for Quake 3: Team Arena
  • February 20, 2001:
    • The San Francisco Chronicle (both print and web versions) runs a story about AYBABTU.
    • OverClocked returns with a Zero Wing based comic.
    • Around this time, "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" was accepted into Eijiro's database (I'm told it's the world's biggest online English-Japanese dictionary - the FAQ is here, but I can't read a word of it). It'll be added next update, which should be April or May sometime.
  • February 21, 2001:
    • Salon.com runs a story about the US Army's use of the phrase, as well as a brief expanantion.
    • Online comic Real Life has a (subtle) AYBABTU in this strip.
    • Somebody chalks All Your Base Are Belong to Us on the roof of Wean Hall at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • February 22, 2001:
    • The Register runs a story about AYBABTU.
    • So does Newsbytes (a mention of the Flash movie, they seem to think the author did all the art). 
    • Steve Jackson Games makes an AYBABTU related post and image.
  • February 23, 2001:
    • AYBABTU is heard on Loveline, thanks to ShAyTaNa of the HardOCP forums. 
    • TechTV runs a story. They do provide a link back to SA, which is a nice change.
    • Wired also runs a story.
    • Kringlenet runs a story, too.
    • And one more blurb at Netsurfer Digest.
    • CATS and the now familiar phrase are seen in the background of a User Friendly strip.
    • Gamespy.com posts a Dork Tower strip.
    • Another strip, College Roomies from Hell!!! has a modified AYBABTU on a newspaper in a strip.
    • Yet another one - Toonbots begins their AYBABTU ref.
    • Segfault.org posts a amusing correction.
    • Another one at Steve Jackson Games - Due to a miscommunication, the poll for Pyramid Magazine is replaced with an AYBABTU one.
  • February 24, 2001: Online comic Doctor Fun changes their logo to a CATS/AYBABTU one. 
  • February 26, 2001:
    • Time Magazine had a small article about it (Issue dated March 5). 
    • As several people have informed me, the cancelled Fox TV show Freaky Links has had its page replaced with AYBABTU.
    • Sluggy Freelance features Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb and AYBABTU in the background of a strip.
    • MyDivX.com posts an interesting image in one of their updates.
    • MP3.com pulls Invasion of the Gabber Robots from TLMOM's site. They claim copyright violations, as the song uses Zero Wing samples. They don't seem to realize that Toaplan has been bankrupt and gone for 6 years. 
    • AYBABTU-related posters were put up at Harvard.
  • February 27, 2001:
    • "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" makes its debut at #46 on the Lycos 50.
    • Angelfire posts a page which is where the Lycos 50 entry links.
    • Invasion of the Gabber Robots is put back on MP3.com after they recieve numerous complaints about its removal, and realize that Toaplan no longer exists.
    • Finagler's archive is updated. The pics are now at full size, and the animated .gifs are included. There do still seem to be some missing, though.
    • Neopets introduces a new shopkeeper - a cat-like CATS. Currently on the New Features page is a picture, captioned "All your Neopet are belong to us!"
    • AYBABTU in real life - some guys put up a banner on a bridge in Australia.
    • Another one - "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" was written in chalk all around the Georgia Tech campus.
    • Another AYBABTU comic - a guest strip at PDI.
  • February 28, 2001:
    • The Lycos 50's article is up.
    • Another User Friendly cartoon includes AYBABTU.
    • The Guardian runs a story. 
  • March 1, 2001:
    • The Detroit Free Press ran a story. It seems they forgot to give credit to JRR/TLMOM for the song (seemingly giving it to PlanetStarsiege) - anybody want to set them straight?
    • NetSlaves posts a story.
    • AYBABTU in a Soap on a Rope comic.
    • Another AYBABTU in real life. At the University of Pennsylvania, pictures of their president Judy Rodin begin appearing. They have a speech bubble that says "All your base are belong to us."
  • March 2, 2001:
    • Somebody hacked Dutch Railways - All Your Trains are Belong to Us! 
    • Online comic Wendy gets in the now-obligatory Zero Wing joke in this installment of CUTEWendy.
    • On the Ethermoon Entertainment forums, an employee posts a shot of the editing software for their upcoming game, Strifeshadow.
  • March 3, 2001:
    • The Daily Mirror runs a full-page story about AYBABTU.
    • The Disco Scottie Show played Invasion of the Gabber Robots during the show - coming back from every break, as a matter of fact.
    • The website for upcoming game Doom 3 launches.
  • March 4, 2001:
    • CATS-Mania infects HP: 
    • TechTV airs part of the flash.
    • The Osdorp Posse's home page is hacked to include "What You Say?" in the main image map.
    • The Dutch postcode lookup website was altered - ALL YOUR POSTCODE ARE BELONG TO US!! It's back to normal now.
    • All Your Base with lasers at the Harshman dorm at Bowling Green State Univ in Ohio.
    • AYBABTU is painted on Coolidge Bridge in Northampton, Mass.
    • On national television, someone in the crowd of the MU vs KU men's basketball game held up a sign that read "All your base are belong to us." 
  • March 5, 2001:
    • A story appeared in the Ottawa Citizen's techweekly section.
    • Rare's web page is now showing some Zero Wing influence.
    • WebWereld posts a story about the Dutch hacks.
    • Some stories on World Online about the hacks and the phenomenon.
    • The Four Toon Tellers begin running a new banner ad.
    • TheForce.net posts a story - Guess what's in it...
  • March 6, 2001:
    • MP3.com's e-mail newsletter prominently features The Laziest Men on Mars and the AYBABTU video.
    • mpXreview.com posts an article about the phenomeon.
    • HugeDisk gives AYBABTU a passing mention.
    • Computer gaming website Blue's News changes their tagline to "All your news are belong to us!"
  • March 7, 2001:
    • USA Today runs an article.
    • "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" moves up 10 places to #36 on the Lycos 50.
    • The Internet TOURBUS runs a story about the AYB "conspiracy." Not to mention changing their front page a bit...
    • TheTripleHelix.com posts a short blurb - it also makes it into their poll (check the previous poll archive).
    • The author of Schlock Mercenary declared he won't have AYBABTU in his strip. Ah, well - somebody had to.
    • The Parking Lot is Full's author posts a... novelization? of the Zero Wing Intro.
    • Fourth and Inches, a comic in the Notre Dame newspaper the Observer, features an AYBABTU. 
  • March 8, 2001:
    • From a reader: "In a limited run of 200 from Steve Jackson Games, the now famous line appears prominantly in bold at the bottom of the instruction sheet of a new game called Frag."
    • Jiminy Critic, a movie review site, reviews the Flash.
    • Audiogalaxy runs a story on Japanese Pop called "All Your Base Are Belong to Us"
    • AYB sighted on the official Tomb Raider Movie web site - click on the "Image of the Week" link.
    • As a result of the Ethermoon forum posting on March 2, a fan creates a Java game - watch the intro. The first AYB in a game (besides Zero Wing, of course)? Possibly.
  • March 9, 2001:
    • AYB on TV again - Fox News runs a story.
    • Doomworld has a new pic of the day - CATS as the Doom 2 end boss.
  • March 10, 2001:
    • ESPN.com mentiones AYB in a humor story.
    • Reports indicate that somebody is posting AYBABTU stickers in Toronto.
  • March 11, 2001:
    • On TV again - Fox 4 in Dallas, TX did a story.
    • VH1 has decided to jump on the bandwagon.
    • The Dutch National Radio played Invasion of the Gabber Robots on the program "Cyber Top 50."
    • All Your Base are Belong to Scooby Doo on When I Grow Up.
    • An interesting story goes up on Celebrity Goo Game.
  • March 12, 2001: AYB appears in a installment of nationally syndicated comic strip Fox Trot.  
  • March 15, 2001: An article appears in the LA Times.
  • April, 2001: Microsoft uses the phrase to promote Office XP (see it at http://www.microsoft.com/Office/clippy/images/rollover_4.gif)
  • UPDATE: A benevolent reader has informed me of www.AmIAllYourBaseOrNot.com that has emerged around a week ago. Noted, thanks.
    UPDATE #2: The April 2001 note concerning Microsoft Office XP was brought to my attention by a second benevolent reader, Bane. Thanks.

From RelicGames, some alteration where applicable.
Alice and Bob = A = all-elbows

all your base are belong to us

A declaration of victory or superiority. The phrase stems from a 1991 adaptation of Toaplan's "Zero Wing" shoot-'em-up arcade game for the Sega Genesis game console. A brief introduction was added to the opening screen, and it has what many consider to be the worst Japanese-to-English translation in video game history. The introduction shows the bridge of a starship in chaos as a Borg-like figure named CATS materializes and says, "How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us." [sic] In 2001, this amusing mistranslation spread virally through the internet, bringing with it a slew of JPEGs and a movie of hacked photographs, each showing a street sign, store front, package label, etc. hacked to read "All your base are belong to us" or one of the other dopy lines from the game. When the phrase is used properly, the overall effect is both screamingly funny and somewhat chilling, reminiscent of the B movie "They Live".

The original has been generalized to "All your X are belong to us", where X is filled in to connote a sinister takeover of some sort. Thus, "When Joe signed up for his new job at Yoyodyne, he had to sign a draconian NDA. It basically said, `All your code are belong to us.'" Has many of the connotations of "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated" (see Borg). Considered silly, and most likely to be used by the type of person that finds Jeff K. hilarious.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

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