Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meme - And the Evolution of Language

Why do some words come into "fashion" while others seem to fade into oblivion?  How does our language change on a day-to-day basis and what is behind these changes?

In recent months the word meme has crept into the popular vocabulary of our time.  Why has this word become so popular recently?  Who or what was the driving force behind the increased usage and popularity of this word?

Through out written media and the Internet meme is being used as a word that describes a theme or a series of ideas.  The definition of the word as provided by Wikipedia is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture".  The word originated through the written works of a British evolutionary biologist by the name of Richard Dawkins.  It was first published in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene".

The origins of the word are clear, however the wider use of the word starting in 2011 is mysterious.  The word has been captured and used by many writers and has been used to describe a variety of different things.  It has been used to describe everything from Mitt Romney's philosophy on government to the message behind the Korean rap sensation PSY's Gangnam Style music video. 

Though it may not seem possible, it would be an interesting experience to research where the roots of the meme craze originated.  Was the word first introduced into mass media by some Madison Avenue advertising executive?  Or is the origin more exotic?  Perhaps some graduate student in biology inserted into a social media post as an experiment to see how far it would spread and how quickly.  I am sure with a lot of research the roots of this craze could be determined but it is beyond my skills and time constraints to do so.  Regardless it fascinates me to see our language evolve right in front of my eyes.  And as we watch this word become ingrained in our language are we aware of the words that are fading out of use?

When watching a movie that was made in the 1930's or earlier on a channel like Turner Classic Movies it is easy to see the evolution of our language.  The formal speaking patterns used in those days are long gone along with many of the words used back then.  How often do we use the word flapper to describe a stylish young woman.  Or how about fly boy to describe a pilot.  So many words have come and gone into our vocabulary in such a short period of time - 70 years that it is obvious to see the continuous change and growth of language.

It may actually be better to describe the changes in language as "evolution" as we can see how one word is eventually morphed into another.  With the Internet, texting and the rise of social media it is easy to imagine that the speed of this evolution is increasing.  Where will our language be in 10 years or 100 years? 

So get ready to develop your own meme and get it rolling in this wonderful world of language!

Not really anything deep or significant in this blog post but it was a question that I just had to pose because the use of this word just about everywhere has shocked the hell out of me!

As for day-to-day life, it exactly that - day-to-day life.  Zack's activities are keeping me busy running him from place to place.  He is doing well in school and his grades are the best they have been since he started middle school.

I'm getting ready for a short weekend trip to San Francisco.  It should be a good weekend!  I haven't been to San Francisco in over 6 years so I am definitely looking forward to it. 

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

I love words! Thanks for sharing.