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A brief and fascinating history of memes

Memes are probably the greatest invention of all time – take that sliced bread. But where did they come from?

We’ll start at the beginning. When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, they tag each other in dank memes on Facebook.

That will basically be the story we tell our kids one day. God, our generation is awesome.

Anywho, the word meme was actually invented by probably the last person you’d ever think would enjoy a good meme – evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene,’ Dawkins coined the term:

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. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.

Dawkins was hoping the word would be used as a unit of cultural transmission. And, in a way, he got his wish. Nowadays, a meme is literally defined as “an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.

Which actually is pretty close to Dawkins originally intention of using the word to mean imitation – and in a later chapter of the book, he actually uses it as a metaphor for the word virus.

The internet ain’t no ‘Dork’ins, and the kind folks of the net have come through once again.

The internet. Is there anything it can’t do?

It’s very difficult to pinpoint the world’s first internet meme and many believe the concept may actually predate the internet itself. It is believed that Star Wars character Admiral Ackbar’s iconic catchphrase ‘it’s a trap!’ represents one of the earliest forms of meme – one which still bounces about the internet today.

As time went on, memes transformed and morphed into the wide-reaching, reshared Facebook-centric sources of hilarity which we now cannot live without.

I honestly have no idea what on Earth took up space on our Facebook feeds prior to the explosion of memes. People actually posted statuses? Are they a thing? Ew. Well, at least we’ve got our statuses from 10 years ago to remind us what losers we were and probably still are.

‘Jake Rosengarten is bored’ – Classic 14-year-old (and current) me.

2016 has been a big year for memes. Regardless of your chosen craze. Shitposting pages, Trump, Biden, Evil Kermit, DJ Khaled, bottle flips and quite possibly the greatest meme of all time – Harambe.

Rest in peace to the most beloved gorilla of all time.

The past has been great for memes and the future remains bright.

Who knows what the future will hold for the thing that makes our lives a little more tolerable. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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