Meme: meaning of the word and origin

The term meme derives from the Greek mímēma and means imitation and more simply refers to a content that in a short time becomes viral

Often, in blogs or posts that are published on various social networks, it is easy to come across the word Meme. But not everyone knows exactly what its meaning is. In fact, this term is used to indicate a funny or bizarre content, which can be an image, a video, a photo or even a phrase, which in a short time spreads virally, becoming a real catchphrase.

In most cases, assessing the absolute popularity of an Internet meme is very difficult, as some are developed in specific groups, where they remain confined, while others take root even in contexts that have nothing to do with the original, getting an excellent spread.

How Meme were born

It is certainly a phenomenon that is finding a great appreciation by Internet users. Let's find out why, carefully evaluating the meaning of the term and its interesting origins, which, contrary to what you might think, are not so recent.

The origins of Memes

The term Meme comes from the Greek word mímēma, which means "imitation", and was used for the first time by Richard Dawkins, a British ethologist and biologist, in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene, where he tries to explain how cultural information spreads. In fact, for the scholar, ideas are transmitted from one generation to another, just as happens with genes that pass from father to son. However, not all concepts are spread, but only those considered most valid and effective.

In fact, therefore, in the original concept of Meme there is the conception that an idea can be discarded and that others can find great success, or become viral. So, we can say that before the advent of the internet Meme already existed, even if they spread more slowly. Dawkins, for example, speaks of an engraving found in Pompeii, composed of a palindrome phrase characterized by 5 words. The same inscription also appears in other sites from the Roman era, but no one has yet understood its meaning.

What is the function of Memes?

In fact, what function do Memes have? Certainly, in most cases, they are created with the intent to entertain users. However, it is good to specify that memes can also be used to grant a concept a greater emotional impact. In the United States, for example, the Pentagon has created the Meme Warfare Center, a structure that aims to counter the spread of fake news. In fact, memes have also entered the political and social spheres, managing to make people think or shake, on more than one occasion, public opinion.

It should be specified, however, that it is easy for memes, just as they have become viral, to fall into oblivion, as the internet spreads an incredible amount of content every day, which is viewed by users. Are you curious to know what was the first Meme that became very successful on the web? It is the image of a child dancing the cha-cha-cha, created to show the skills of a software, created by graphic designer Michael Girard in 1996. Such Meme became so viral that it even appeared in an episode of the TV series Ally McBeal.