What is the surprising origin of the word ‘meme’?

In the labyrinth of internet culture, where fad trends dance across screens, .one peculiar term reigns supreme: the “meme.” Surprisingly, the concept of memes did not originate with the internet its roots trace back to the field of evolutionary biology.

And the story goes like this…

English evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkiwns coined the term ‘meme’ in his 1976 book, the Selfish Gene. He proposed a compelling idea in the book: What if ideas behaved akin to living organism, breeding, mutating, and waging a battle for survival within our mind to make a strong impact, imprint or impression? He envisioned these cerebral nations as cultural genes, birthing in the cradle of the mind and traversing far and wide, vying for attention.

He first thought of using the term mimeme, derived from the Greek word denoting “That which is replicated,” intending to describe these replicating ideas. However, he later condensed the term to “meme,” favouring its brevity and its phonetic resemblance to “gene.” He invited a pronunciation similar to “cream,” aiming to unify its sound with the concept of gene.

As language is ever-changing…

Over time, the meaning of “meme” evolved significantly. In today’s context, particularly within the vast realms of the internet, meme refer to pieces of media-images, videos, or phrases- repurposed to convey cultural, social, or political messages, usually employing humour as a tool for expression.

They often convey inside jokes, political satire, social commentary, or simply aim to amuse and entertain audiences worldwide. Moreover, memes operate within a collaborative social framework; their meanings and impact are co-created by multiple users.

Today, memes don’t just exist; they breathe, mutate, and thrive in a collective symphony. Their essence morphs and remixes across digital communities, a collaboration shaping their meaning and impact.

Tardar sauce (pictured here) became an internet celebrity nicknamed grumpy cat after its owner shared its picture on Reddit in 2012. The cat had feline dwarfism and an underbite, which gave her an unusual face. The grumpy cat’s face has become a pop culture staple and spawned many memes and merchandise.

Picture Credit : Google