Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Which Militant Ginger is an Idiot and it's All Richard Dawkin's Fault

One of the greatest digital timewasters of our age is the Internet "meme." This is basically an online version of a Fast Show sketch – the same joke told again and again using the same visual components, with slight variations that make it increasingly hilarious.

An example:

Challenge Accepted uses the same stick-figure face in every meme

Being a somewhat educated sort [you mean wildly pretentious – Editorial Bear] I had assumed that the root of the term "meme" was from the French word "même" - literally "the same". This was a logical translation as each image was "the same" as the others, with the variation being the joke.

Therefore, for as long as I've been aware of Internet memes, I've been pronouncing them "mehms" (to rhyme with "stems", "gems" or "hems.") Worse than that, I've actually been making fun of people who "mispronounce" the word with the (seemingly) ridiculous-sounding pronunciation "meem".

Except today, the fun-making stopped. Because I discovered I was the one who'd been doing the mispronunciation all along.

It turns out "meme" really IS pronounced "meem" - and it's deliberate!

I had no idea, but the word "meme" was coined by no-less than arch-atheist Richard Dawkins, in his 1989 book The Selfish Gene. He wrote:
"We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me, if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'."
So even though the word IS based off the French one, Dawkins DELIBERATELY SPECIFIED that it should rhyme with "gene" because he wanted to express the parallel between items that are reproduced by imitation rather than reproduced genetically.

Or, more specifically, because he wanted to a pompous twit (which is something he's managed to get down pat.)

Anyway. The result is that I'm the so-called Social Media expert who has been sounding like an idiot for the last five years.

The humiliation. It burns.

2 comments:

One Salient Oversight said...

The "Challenge accepted" meme is actually a submeme of the Rage Face and Troll Face meme, which has since become what is known as "F7U12" (aka fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu)

It's part of Reddit:

http://www.reddit.com/r/fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu/

And you can make your own here:

http://www.ragemaker.net/

Roland Hulme said...

Wow! I bow to your knowledge, sir. ;-) Thanks for sharing.