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FT: You Are What You Meme

If you have an email inbox, you will, even if the term is unfamiliar, have come across what it denotes: the viral ephemera that washes across the Internet, proliferates on Facebook walls and trends on Twitter. The Internet is the most potent medium of mass communication in human history, but we use it to exchange videos of cats jumping through cardboard boxes, old Rick Astley songs, and pictures of a rabbit with a pancake balanced on its head. The success of these memes prompts certain questions. Not least, what’s wrong with us? But also, what do they tell us about our relationships with each other? And what is it that makes certain memes catch fire? .... One of the most enduring and easily remixed meme genres is what users on Internet forums call the "image macro"—that is, a picture with lettering across it—of which the best known is probably the LOLcat. There are now millions of these in circulation. The archetypal LOLcat—back in the dawn of time, i.e. 2007, was a fat-looking gray mog asking: "I can has cheezburger?" Subgenres sprang up, multiplied, divided, and adapted. The Bible has been translated into LOLspeak, and LOLwalruses are already old, old news. Image macros may use a specific image and an associated running joke, or a phrasal template of the sort known as "snowclones": for example, "to X, or not to X"; "X is the new Y." Snowclones are catnip to the Internet. A catchphrase from online war games, "I’m in your base, killing your men" (and numerous misspelled alternatives), has spawned the snowclone, "I’m in ur X, Ying ur Z." You’ll find it on LOLcats: "I’m in ur fridge, eating ur noms." Kanye West’s famous interruption—"I’ma let you finish"—was another instant snowclone; "Yo Jesus, I’m real happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but Allah had one of the best ideas of all time. Of all time!" And so forth. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/ft/2011/10/what_memes_like_maru_the_cat_and_star_wars_kid_say_about_us.single.html
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