If you’ve been on social media at all, you’ve seen the word and (think you) know what it is. Sadly, most of you don’t know what it actually is or how to pronounce it. At the risk of bringing my Grammar Hammer down in a really annoying fashion, I’m here to educate.
We’ll start with the easy stuff: It’s pronounced ‘meem.’ Not ‘me-me.’ I’m not ashamed to admit that when I first saw the word, I was like “me-me what?” But then it clicked that the last letter is silent and I went on feeling superior to everyone else in the world. (*That last part is a joke. I have never, nor will I ever, see myself as superior to anyone. I just like to let you guys know that despite all my grammar nazi shenanigans, I don’t take myself too seriously & neither should you.*) 🙂
A “meme” is a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. It is, quite simply, the cultural equivalent of a “gene.” Whereas a “gene” is the unit of biological evolution, so the “meme” is the unit of cultural change. As time passes, certain genes are more beneficial for an organism (usually for a certain time). Similarly, as time passes, certain cultural “memes” are more likely to “catch on,” while others become extinct. For example, a meme of the 70’s might have been bell bottoms and platform shoes. While there are still undoubtedly people who wear this combination of clothing, it has effectively gone out of style or is extinct, so it is no longer a cultural meme.
The term is used (incorrectly) to describe captioned images in which one places text on an image to make an attempt at an amusing image/text combination. The idea of this image macro itself may be considered a meme because it has become a common occurrence in modern society but each individual picture with text on it is not a “meme” in and of itself.
So…you’re smarter now. You’re welcome.