The do a barrel roll itself is a real-life aeronautics maneuver where an airplane does a single turn along its longitudinal axis. The term started becoming popular in the 1920s, during the early days of dogfighting.

According to Know Your Meme, the phrase do a barrel roll comes from the 1997 video game Star Fox 64, where a character named Peppy Hare repeatedly insists that the player perform the maneuver to avoid being hit by lasers. The urgency of Peppy’s repeated demand inspired the internet meme.

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