Pop Culture dictionary

the Wadsworth Constant

or Wadsworth's Constant [th uh wodz-werth kon-stuhnt]

What does the Wadsworth Constant mean?

The Wadsworth Constant is the idea (and 2011 meme) that one can safely skip past the first 30 percent of any YouTube video without missing any important content.

We know, of course, you never skip past any of our content, though … right?

Related words

5/7, LPT, mind blown, Godwin’s law, Murphy's Law, expanding brain meme

Where does the Wadsworth Constant come from?

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On October 1, 2011, users in the subreddit r/pics were discussing that perpetually vexing problem of how to fold a fitted bedsheet in a thread called “And so ends 20 years of frustration.”

One Redditor posted an instructional YouTube video on the topic, and the user u/Wadsworth replied: “For EVERY youtube video, I always open the video and then immediately punch the slider bar to about 30 percent. For example, in this video, it should have just started at :40. Everything before :40 was a waste. This holds true for nearly every video in the universe.” The notion is that the first third or so of a YouTube is just irrelevant introductory content. 

Reddit screenshot

User u/Redebo replied, “Perhaps this should be known as the Wadsworth Constant.” We were able to track down Redebo on Reddit, who told us in an email that the two Wadsworth Constants are unrelated:

Honestly there was nothing behind the name other than the user who suggested that the first 30% of any YouTube video was worthless. His name is Wadsworth. His post made a lot of sense, so i made the suggestion that “Perhaps this should be known as the Wadsworth Constant” and reddit took it from there.

The joking concept spread. Use of the term constant riffs on constants (physical quantities that are the same no matter when or where in the universe) in science (e.g., Planck’s constant). It also alludes to popular internet laws (e.g., Poe’s Law or Godwin’s Law).

Soon after, people were writing scripts and creating Google Chrome plugins that automatically applied the Wadsworth Constant to any video. A screenshot of the Wadsworth Constant comment made Reddit’s front page, where the most popular recent content lives. The Wadsworth Constant went on to be named 2011’s Reddit comment of the year.

Entries for the Wadsworth Constant flooded Urban Dictionary on October 1–2. On October 3, The Daily Dot published an article called “How the Wadsworth Constant will give you 50 percent more time.” Another article soon followed on Lifehacker. The Wadsworth Constant had officially outgrown Reddit and crossed into the mainstream.

The Wadsworth Constant should not be confused with the Wadsworth constant deviation system, which is a method of passing light through prisms invented by Frank L. O. Wadsworth in 1894.

Examples of the Wadsworth Constant

Meme Generator
I wish we could apply the Wadsworth constant to smartphone keynotes.
@MishaalRahman, August, 2018
Bah, should have applied the Wadsworth Constant, sat through a minute of intros only to find out this vid was a damn Portal parody song
@Totalbiscuit, October, 2011
Of our three-video sample size, Wadsworth’s Constant applies well to the latter two videos. If one applied the Constant to this study, there’s a clear takeaway: it works with complete accuracy.
Kevin Collier, The Daily Dot, October 2011

Who uses the Wadsworth Constant?

Reddit is still the spiritual home to the Wadsworth ConstantThere’s even an entire subreddit, r/wadsworth, devoted to it. Programmers love to play with the Wadsworth Constant. The coding platform GitHub is awash in bots, browser extensions, and scripts to automate skipping the first third of just about anything.

Still, the Wadsworth Constant thrives outside the web, and the Wadsworth Constant can be used as a shorthand for padded and irrelevant material in online content, especially YouTube videos.

The Wadsworth Content has also appeared in popular culture. A 2018 Philadelphia improv comedy festival featured a one act play titled The Wadsworth ConstantElectronic artist earwigisbent uploaded a track called the Wadsworth Constant to Soundcloud in 2018. The track runtime is 2:33, but you should probably just start listening at 0:51.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of the Wadsworth Constant like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of the Wadsworth Constant that will help our users expand their word mastery.