Feb 1, 2013

Wordology, Meme

The vast expanse of the internet makes communication around the world immediate, and with it copying and sharing of interesting (and not so interesting) information. The neologism (a new word or phrase) 'meme' (rhymes with team) has reached widespread use to describe the viral spread of jokes, ideas, and more via the internet.

“Meme” was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins before the web was in use, in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. He stated, "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."

The French word même means “same” or “alike.” The Greek word “mimeme” he takes “meme” from comes from the Ancient Greek meaning “that which is imitated” / “something imitated” / “something copied”.

Dawkins was hoping that the word would be used as a unit of human cultural transmission, such as a melody, fashion, or catch-phrase. People refine memes as they sometimes alter the information when they transmit it to another human. Bacon, while being still being delicious has also become a meme.