Jul 26 2008

Memetics

Published by at 2:55 pm under Blog

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).

Words

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.

ScrabbleBeing 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).

Memes

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.

Lolcat

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. Pinky and the BrainYears 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:

StumbleUpon It!

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Memetics”

  1. Joon 27 Jul 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Those words are good n’ big alright.
    The word meme always makes me feel uncomfortable for some reason.
    You didn’t need the (sic) after edumacation!
    This may be an excercise in masochism, but will you play Scrabble with me on Facebook?

  2. Kitty Caton 28 Jul 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Oh I love pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis! A lung disease that miners are susceptible to, but you probably know that already. Praetertranssubstantiationalistically is another nice one, but my favourite word is phantasmagoria because it sounds all lovely and spooky!
    Animaniacs=genius. And not least because of songs like this

  3. Kevinon 29 Jul 2008 at 12:42 am

    Words really are wonderful. Like any great work of art, no matter how often it’s used, we can love an word isolated as much as we did when we first came across it. My current favoute (a favourite for some time now) is ‘crepuscular.’ I’m not sure whether I prefer its sound or what it evokes.

    “I love, I am enamoured with, I am smitten by, I adore, cherish and am devoted to words.”

    It’s enamoured of, actually?

    Who, me? Oh, I love grammar, too, you see. 😉

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enamoured

    I don’t doubt that, in the above, in all my smart-arsed pedantry, I’ve made some spelling or grammatical error.

  4. Darrenon 29 Jul 2008 at 10:41 am

    @Jo Right, you’ve sucked me in to the FaceBook Scrabble.

    @Kitty Love that song. Cheers! 🙂

    @Kevin Ouch! That hurt! Well, I never claimed to be perfect. I’m always learning. Enamoured of? Really? Odd! (Love your blog btw)

  5. Darraghon 29 Jul 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Not HUGELY relevant but a cracking good read on the importance of words:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/25/pressandpublishing.thetimes/print

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