The following is a list of terms to know for a better understanding of the Know Your Meme database.
Note: The following information was gathered from a number of documents compiled by both KYM Staff and community contributers, including the KYM Dictionary Project. The results of the dictionary project diverged far from the intended purpose and many brief descriptions for memes were included, rather than for terms used when describing cultural internet phenomena. The following is a guide of terms used in the study of internet memes, and not a list of memes themselves. The terms have been organized by type and by relation to one another.
Memetic Hub: The communities where memes are born and proliferate. Like a niche.
Memeplex: A Meme that has spawned multiple sub-memes. (Advice Dog)
Meta-meme: A meme that makes reference to the subject of memes. Meme instances that are about memes or memetics. This is not to be confused with meme hybrids or memeplexes.
Instance: A term to denote any iteration of a meme, including replication of exact copies; the most basic unit of measurement for notability. For example, a popular quote gains its “catchphrase” status through repeated instances.
Derivative: A term to denote any variants of a meme created in reference to the original instance. Literally, it’s a thing that is derived from another thing. This includes exploitables, remixes and parodies.
Remix: A type of derivatives created by using parts of more than one source material. This is typically observed in all sorts of user-generated content, including cross-meme combos in video mashups and image macros.
Parody: A type of derivatives in which participants imitate a particular genre/style, mainly through performance and reenactment. The most common subjects of viral parodies arise from pop culture. The term is often misused as an equivalent of derivatives and should be differentiated from “exploitable.”
Spin-off: A set of derivatives that’s grown out of an existing meme, but with explicit references to the original content. For example, operation lioncash is a spin-off phenomenon of jesus christ it’s a lion get in the car.
Mutation: A distinct instance in memetic development in which the existing idea takes on a different form or medium. For example, when a popular catchphrase has clearly evolved into an image macro series, it can be said a significant mutation has occurred.
Forced Meme: A planned attempt to make a meme. Generally, they lack derivatives made by other people for them to be considered a meme.
Amplifier: A website or community with a proven history for introducing memes to a larger audience, increasing their popularity.
Spread: The range of locations where a specific meme can be found.
Terms related to memetic qualities
Grassroots: A word to describe a movement or meme created or “grown” by regular people or users; not coporate companies or large organizations. These memes are the kinds that start out small and grow from person to person, rather than a singular massive exposure.
Astroturf: An artificial movement posing as a grassroots movement; e.g. a staged or faked video that appears real; (WP: formally planned by an organization, but designed to mask its origins to create the impression of being spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior)
Exploitable: Refers to a type of image that is prime for editing in many different ways. Generally, there will be one element of an image that can be tweaked, or captions may be added.
Copypasta: A bastardization of copy-paste. When used as an image macro, it is often accompanied by a picture of spaghetti.
Dynamics and Perceptual Effects
Barbara Streisand Effect: When an attempt to censor or hide something from the general public results in its unexpected/sudden rise in popularity.
Benjamin Button Effect: When a meme starts out mainstream and dies out quickly.
Family Guy Effect: When a meme becomes so popular it is parodied by mainstream media. When this happens, the reputation of the meme is tarnished among some members of some communities, enough to voice a vocal opinion. However, most data for Family Guy affected memes show a resurgence in popularity for the meme soon after the mainstream mention. (see: Peanut Butter Jelly Time). But still, sudden rises in popularity make for short-lasting enjoyment, and the trends soon settle back into a state of equilibrium.
Seinfeld Effect: A term used for when a meme is believed to have begun from certain mainstream media when, in fact, it did not. It was only referencing the already existing meme.
Godwin’s Law: A behavioral observation stating that the longer a Usenet conversation is, the more likely Nazis are to be mentioned, ending the conversation. It is now applied to all forums.
GET: An occasion where an imageboard user’s post number is a significant number. (I.E. 1000000) Popular on 4chan because the high traffic makes a GET much more difficult. GETs often function as a decision-making mechanism, resulting in declarations of “meme worthiness” and naming of new memes.
Bump: A backronym for “Bring up my post”. Used to send a topic to the top of the board in hopes of bringing interest to the thread.
Thread Necro: The act of bumping an old thread or a thread that has served its purpose.
Threadjacking: The act of stealing a thread via a topic change and is often done unintentionally. When done intentionally, it can be considered trolling.
SAGE: A function on most Futaba-style image boards. Derived from the Japanese sageru, meaning to lower, it is used to post in a thread without bumping. It is often used with the belief that one can kill a thread even though this is impossible.
RTFM: Read the fucking manual. Once an anonymous quote in a software manual, now it is used as a phrase in images.
tl;dr: "Too Long; Didn’t Read", a common response to a long post. May be substituted/supplemented with a picture of a Teal Deer, due to the fact that “tl;dr” sounds like "teal deer" when said aloud.
Sauce: Slang for “source”, often used when the poster wants moar of what was posted. Originated when m00t (founder of 4chan) filtered “source” to show up as “sauce”.
Combo Breaker: A common phrase often used on message boards to “break” a repetition of a phrase or a certain pattern being currently done on the board.
Ragequit: A word used to describe the act of quitting something in anger, frustration, or butthurt.
Flame: Inflammatory, abusive or directly offensive comments. This is differentiated from a trolling, because which often consists of arguing a point that one might not personally agree with simply for the sake of generating “lulz”.
Troll: Refers to a person who posts inflammatory, rude, or insulting posts on a forum for the sole purpose of creating controversy. Popularized doing things “for the lulz”.
PEBKAC: Problem exists between keyboard and chair. A euphemism for an insult toward incompetent computer users.
Lurk Moar: LOLspeak telling a user to look before posting.