Monday, March 30, 2009

What's in a name?

Meme

When most people I know say "meme" they mean an Internet meme. An internet meme is traditionally "a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an inside joke" more coloquially, lulz. Examples include Rickroll, Sup Dawg/Pimp My Ride and "I accidentally [insert noun here]." Memes spread like wildfire among nerds, and often I find the need for an encyclopedia when talking to a non-nerd.

Meme takes on a new meaning in the blogging world. Blogging memes are not just jokes and phrases. They are short word games, quizzes, or surveys. They are generally regarded as comment bait. The more comments one receives, the higher the chance of that "meme" spreading.

How to pronounce "meme." Well, since it is a word that is often seen written and not heard, there are many pronunciations that one might hear. One thing that irks me about many bloggers and YouTubers is the mispronunciation of the word "meme." I very commonly hear it pronounced mee-mee. In the words of Encyclopedia Dramatica:

"... a great deal of confusion has formed amongst the retarded masses of the internets. Very few people seem to know how it's properly pronounced, and idiots still argue (and probably always will) over how exactly one says the word meme. Some possibilities:

  • Meem (with a long e sound)
  • Mee Mee (two long e sounds)
  • Mām (long a sound, like the word maim)
  • May May (two long a sounds)
  • Mem (with a short e sound)
  • Meh Meh (two short e sounds)
  • And any additional combination of the above sounds

Naturally, only one of these can be correct. Of course, anybody with a handful of brain cells can come to the conclusion that all but one of them sound fucking retarded. If you still can't figure out how it's pronounced, get off your lazy ass and just fucking Google it, loser."

You should probably note that Encyclopedia Dramatica does not care if you think it is nice or not. But seriously, mee-mee? Okay, I will explain why this is wrong.

As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976), a meme is "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. The word "meme" is a shortening of "mimeme", which is derived from the Greek word mimema, meaning "something imitated."

Biological evolution depends on the existence of a self-replacing unit of transmission -- the gene. In the case of cultural evolution, this self-replacing unit is a meme. Okay, now you can guess how it pronounced.

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