Jul 26 2008
Doyle will be on Newstalk this evening discussing Memes. A couple of months ago I was tagged to perpetuate the ‘Six Things About Yourself‘ Meme and it got me asking, where the hell is Matt and what the hell is a Meme.
True to form, I went off on a vicious reserching expedition, scaling the heights of Google Mountain and trawling the Seas of Wikipedia in search of meaning, truth and, of course, Matt. What I found was very interesting (I use this term loosely, because I found it interesting doesn’t mean everyone else will).
Allow me to digress a moment. Mulley, a long while back, asked people what they were ambassadors for (another Meme, btw) and I realised that in my reply I neglected to mention my love of, my passion for, my obsession with words. I love, I an enamoured with, I am smitten by, I adore, cherish and am devoted to words.
Being the odd youth that I was, I remember getting a set of encyclopedia for Christmas one year. Believe it or not, this was not my main present. I may have gotten a bike or computer game or some such thing, I don’t quite recall, and my parents felt the household needed some edumacation (sic.). Actually, it was my first non-Santa year and I was completely shocked and overwhelmed to arrive down on Christmas morning to find this big ugly brown box in the middle of the sitting-room floor. I didn’t know what it was and nearly cried when I opened it (I’ll direct you to this wonderful video at this point to illustrate how I felt). I was, shall we say, bookish as a child and this was the ultimate present, as far as I was concerned. In the set of Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, there was a two-volume dictionary and I’m pretty sure I spent half of Christmas Day dissecting it. I remember bringing it out to my Granny’s house with me when we collected her for mass. Who brings a dictionary to show off? Me, apparently.
Well, one of the things I loved most about the dictionary was not just discovering new words, but discovering long words and longer words and the longest words. To this day I can, with ease, pronounce words like pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis and floccinaucinihilipilification, both of which I just spelled without the use of a dictionary or Google. To me these words are fun. The way they bend around the tongue, the pointlessness of them and yet they exist.
Words and their usage are an example of real life Memery (you see, I did have a point).
Darwin proposed the evolution of species and memetics similarly examines the evolution of culture and pop-culture in particular. Words and language are a perfect example of memetics in constant flow. On a daily basis new words are invented as old words fade into the ether, words are compounded and accepted as normal very quickly. The word Meme is beautiful. It encompasses so much and sums up an entire sub-culture of the internet in one mono-sylabic utterance. Common sense, familial traditions, political concepts, fashion are further real life, offline Memes. The process is organic.
So too is the proliferation of online memes. The obvious memes are those that appear on people’s blogs. Someone lists their favourite books and asks other to do the same. They in turn make their list and pass it on. It’s a big game of chinese whispers. Other memes such as Matt and his travels begin life as simple experiments and soon take on a life of their own. The LOLcat phenomemnon has almost become a badge of honour among nerds and geeks the world over. Outsiders just don’t understand. And what about the propogation of Star Wars lightsaber videos. Even Matt has been copied.
Over the years I grew to love all sorts of words. I expanded beyond the dictionary and learned the joys of odd sounding phrases and slang and made up terms. Anti-disestablishmentarianism is an old favourite, logophilia (love of words) is great, repudiate is one I like. But there a silly word which I use a lot. It doesn’t even mean anything and it is a perfect example of a meme in everyday life. Years ago, there was a cartoon called Animaniacs (those who know me already know what word I’m referring to). In Animaniacs, there was two characters called Pinky and the Brain. Pinky was an odd little mouse who, looking at it retrospectively ,probably had some kind of OCD. The few odd tics that Pinky had included sporadically saying words like Poit, Zort and, of course, Narf. I love the word Narf.
Good luck in your radio appearance this evening, D. I’ll make efforts to listen in, but hopefully it’ll be podcasted. Narf! Oh, and here’s Matt: