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This is a static archive of the domnit.org blog,
which Lenny Domnitser wrote between 2006 and 2009.

Gorilla: How Many Hundred Pounds?

Everyone knows it. It’s the 800-pound gorilla of clichés. Or is it 500 pounds? Urban Dictionary has an entry for 800-pound gorilla but not 500-pound gorilla, and 800 is the expression I’ve heard most. But actual worldwide usage can be surprising.

I queried Google, and 500-pound has 28% higher usage than 800-pound, with about 310,000 results compared to about 242,000. Gorilla usage by pounds exhibits a clear double-hump pattern, with 500 and 800 above all the rest, then usage dropping to tens of thousands for 400, 600, 900, and 1,000, and insignificant usage for other values.

Bar graph shows number of results per pounds for pounds from 100 to 1,600 by 100s. Results are 853; 2,060; 1,550; 16,400; 310,000; 18,500; 1,300; 242,000; 28,400; 10,500; 12; 357; 5; 6; 366; 124

Here is the same data on a logarithmic scale, to better see the order of results:

Graph shows same data as above on a logarithmic scale

Query technique

Google search X lb gorilla” OR “X pound gorilla”. Today’s data: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1,000, 1,100, 1,200, 1,300, 1,400, 1,500, 1,600.

Scaling up

Some people use thousands instead of hundreds, but 8,000 (3,100 results) is more popular than 5,000 (578 results). Several other pound values get thousands of results, but I haven’t seen any others with over 10,000 results.

If you switch to words instead of numerals, you can find plenty of million and billion pound gorillas, but they seem to be a less pure use of the expression. Rather than just identify the biggest player in some field, the large-number usage may try to show actual scale or value. For example, Myspace was identified in 2006 as a 27.4-billion-pound gorilla and the United States’ debt is a 9-trillion-pound gorilla.

1 comment on Gorilla: How Many Hundred Pounds?

1. Justin says:

I always thought it was 400 pound gorilla. :-/

—Justin, 25 June 2008, 0:06

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