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Meet The Man Who Invented “Memes”!

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Today I found out where the word meme comes from.

In its early days, “meme”, which incidentally is often mispronounced as “me-me” or “meh-meh”, but in fact should be pronounced “meem”, primarily was only known and used by certain academics, but today Internet memes are everywhere on the web and they’ve only grown stronger over the past decades or so since social media has grown to become such a mainstream phenomenon.

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“Meme” was coined by the often controversial evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. In it, he states the following:

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’.

The French word même that he references means “same” or “alike” (though the meaning changes somewhat depending on how it is used). The Greek word “mimeme” he derives “meme” from comes from the Ancient Greek μίμημα (mīmēma), meaning “that which is imitated” / “something imitated” / “something copied”.

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