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Memes as Language/Re-categorization amongst Memes

Last posted Feb 25, 2013 at 12:53AM EST. Added Feb 21, 2013 at 07:52PM EST
16 posts from 6 users

Today I was watching Vsauce, where the term Paraprosdokian was used to describe memes like Dating Site Murderer / Good Intentions Axe Murderer and Successful Black Man .

Looking into the articles, both use the term Bait-and-Switch . However, Paraprosdokian and Bait-and-Switch, being similar to their execution, are completely different, both in function and purpose. While both are linguistic tricks, Paraprosdokian is often meant to inform and change ones opinion; but Bait-and-Switch is meant to misinform, under often malign pretenses. So… the information is wrong.

This leads me to wonder if KYM could, perhaps, be categorizing memes in a more efficient way--perhaps toward a memes function linguistically (as memes are a form of communication.) Thoughts?

Last edited Feb 21, 2013 at 07:52PM EST

‘Paraprosdokian’ is a fairly anachronistic (and cromulent) word that isn’t generally known. To be precise, the bait-and-switch is a specific type of paraprosokian, and while they don’t specifically describe memes such as the ones you listed, it’s an adequate stand-in term. Remember, Know Your Meme doesn’t exclusively cater to linguistics grad students.

As for categorization, I’m not sure what you mean. Are you referring to the four site categories (Meme, Site, Person, Event), or to tags? With regards to the former, I don’t see how this is relevant. As for the latter, again, I don’t think that paraprosdokian is a viable tag to be used.

However, I do like your point about memes being used as a form of communication. We have a variety of entries directly related to that (internet slang, for starters), but I think the Meme category is clumsy in this case. I, personally, would argue for the creation of a new category for Slang, because it’s an aspect of net culture that isn’t adequately covered in the Meme or Subculture categories.

When it comes to using things like image macros as a form of communication, or even reaction faces, there’s the meat of your point. I agree that that aspect could be better covered on KYMDB, not so much in the individual entries, but as an overarching theme. I think the best bet, for now, would be to create an explanatory entry in the style of Meme Elitism.

@Zillie specifically: If you like this idea, you can go ahead and create such an entry. But please let me know if you do or add me as an editor or something, because I’d love to help research it.

IMO, Paraprosdokian does work a lot better than bait-and-switch, as it’s a language term (and aren’t advice animals really just language games centered on a stereotype?) but opspe makes a great point: the audience of memetic content in general aren’t really linguistics students / would be familiar with this term in the first place.

bait and switch, though not as accurate, gives the same semblance of understanding and is a lot more accessible of a term. Every time I’ve had to type Paraprosdokian today I’ve just copied and pasted it for fear of spelling it wrong.


I totally understand what you mean about the target audience, but as far as I’ve noticed, KYM is built around research and the education of memes. We even discourage unsavory editing, grammar, and discourse (except for the lulz of course). Believe it or not, people are actually starting to take KYM a lot more seriously as a means to source viral content.

I simply don’t see the need in dumbing anything down, but rather--I think we could up the ante. If we wait too long, the task of more specifically classifying memes could be too great.

You’re also correct in what I what I was inquiring upon… specifically the categories “Meme” and “Subculture.” These two categories might need some kind of sub-classification.

I’ve mentioned this quite a few times, but I believe memes are mankind’s new way of evolving--at least in the way of linguistics. You see, language used to develop slowly, but certain catalysts can greatly impact the evolution of a language. Some examples would be war, colonization, migration, pop culture, etc. Basically, we’re forced to merge and reshape phrases and words. However, memes are something completely different. Born form simple ideas, they grow and shift from person to person. The internet, being a collective whole of information, which we strive to share and be a part of, single-handedly developed more phrases, words, and methods of communication than can be said of any previously existing linguistic catalyst. But that’s the thing. It’s about communication. When we get right down to it, memes are about cognition. The functionality, replication, recognition and finally virality is what makes a communicated idea a meme.

Also. thank you for the link to meme elitism. I’m on board with that, actually.
(Slightly off topic but…
I actually think there should be some mention as to why bronies hated the term “pegasister,”
being that the term “brony” was coined under the corruption of the word pony, under the board /b/.)

I don’t know if a page should be dedicated or not.
@amanda b

I’ve kept it in a notepad document, just for that reason. It’s going to take a while to get used to typing it.

Last edited Feb 22, 2013 at 07:44PM EST

TLDR This post is not really on the language topic, but on topic with the brony/pegasister talk in the last post

Someone brought up the pegasister thing to me after reading this Daily Dot article on sexism within the fandom. Not in a meme elitism way, but in a “why does the fandom not use the term and instead use the blanket masculine term instead” way. He had no idea pegasister was even a word, thinking that female fans were just that because it’s expected that a woman like MLP. While it may be gender-appropriate for a female identifying human being to enjoy a show about colorful ponies, it’s not really age-appropriate for an older teen or adult woman to be heavily invested in the show, so these female fans, in a way, are being just as atypical as the male fans.

But going back to the article, I think it’s a really interesting facet to the fandom, as exhibited by this section:

The only female member of the brony fandom that the documentary profiles, Nadine Neumann, is briefly shown creating and selling replica ponies; but the majority of her time on-screen is explicitly to discuss her relationship with a male member of the fandom. Even as a desperately needed representative of female My Little Pony fandom, she’s still called on to reinforce this documentary’s message of male heterosexuality.

“It was my job to bake and give out the cupcakes,” she says of her brony meetup.

“When she finally came, she had muffins,” her boyfriend Ben echoes, “…and I thought, ‘Yes, nice girl.”

I went to Bronycon and though I do not align myself with the MLP fandom at all, I felt very out of place. There were tons of women there, but something about it made me feel pretty uncomfortable (opspe and verbose could vouch for this, we went for cupcakes instead of hanging around the con).

What does this mean for MLP fandom as a whole? Are male fans so worried about perceived as nonmasculine that they exhibit a sense of hypermasculinity when it comes to women? It amde me wonder whether or not being a brony affects their relationships at all, are these the type of men who are invested in patriarchal notions as well? And what does that mean if they expect their female companions to live out those stereotypical roles while they are breaking them by being involved in the show

I’ve talked about this with Verbose before, actually, in our survey discussions.

I think that the brony subculture does sort of marginalize women, and I do think that at least some male fans are very sensitive about being called effeminate because they like MLP. As Verbose will tell you, he thinks (and I agree) that an unstated goal of the Brony Study was to demonstrate the “normality” of bronies, or specifically their heteronormality, through social science. Verbose and I found that the brony population, or at least the online contingent, is about 85% male, which was supported by the results of the Brony Study. We also found that the brony population is 80% heterosexual, slightly lower than the Brony Study’s results. This means that, statistically speaking, the average brony online has a 65% chance of being a straight male.

65% doesn’t seem like an overwhelmingly large percentage, but if the Tea Party has taught us anything, it’s that numbers don’t matter as long as you should loud enough. If a significant proportion of that 65% is highly concerned with people perceiving them as effeminate, then they could easily create the sort of “Brony Machismo” that we observed at Bronycon. And I think that was the case. That sort of “Brony Machismo”, or internet machismo in general, or even machismo in society as a whole, really relies on the stereotypical 1950s gender roles that we see in old movies and TV shows. And I think the Daily Dot article really exhibits that; as it says, in the documentary, Neumann’s contributions are passingly mentioned, but the focus is on how she supports the males in the fandom. She’s shown to be validating their heteronormitivity by fulfilling the 1950s housewife archetype.

I don’t think that bronies are intentionally sexist or purposefully marginalize female fans. But I do think that, since the “Brony Phenomenon” is predominantly male, women who ascribe to the MLP can feel out of place. As Zillie pointed out, the term ‘brony’ started as a portmanteau of /b/ and pony, but I think that it has since evolved to be more of a portmanteau of bro and pony. Thus, it is seen by most as an inherently male phenomenon. Female bronies thus are either seen as being “one of the gang”, so to speak, or “not one of us”. “One of the gang” can be taken in the same sense as the phrase “lady gamer”; a female who shares many interests with those of males, not necessarily masculine, but nonetheless “one of us”.

And then there’s “not one of us”. This notion, I think, is the root of the issue many bronies have with the term ‘pegasister’. I think most male bronies see a clear distinction between “female bronies” and “pegasisters”; the former are “one of the gang”-types, whereas the latter are the more typical female fans, who share an interest in MLP, but who perhaps do not share many other interests with male bronies. Pegasisters don’t have to prove their masculinity because they like MLP, which runs contrary to most bronies. And since bronies are such an insular community, because of all of the outside suspicion they face (this is despite all the internal talk of “love and tolerate”), I think there’s a distinct mentality of “you may like the show but you’re not one of us”, and I think this gets applied to the term pegasisters. Thus, pegasisters and bronies aren’t seen as equals; pegasisters are outsiders.

Now I’m going to (hopefully) tie all this rambling together. One prevailing commonality between bronies is their, um, lack of life experience, so to speak. So, when this overwhelmingly male, insular subculture, obsessed with proving its own masculinity and machismo, is confronted with female fans who they don’t quite see as equals or members of their society, their natural response is to apply their notions of machismo (and associated gender roles) to these female fans. Thus, many pegasisters are marginalized by the brony majority. The word ‘pegasister’ is hated because it describes an unequal group.

But, since the brony fandom is largely predicated on the notions of love and tolerance, these problems are largely ignored, the word ‘pegasister’ is shunned, and female fans of MLP are forced to choose between becoming bronies, with all the meanings and expectations that entails, or remaining outsiders. To me, it’s almost the fandom’s dirty secret.

This is not to say, by any means, that all bronies are like this. This is just my observation of the subculture as a whole.

Continuing on slightly, back to Zillie’s original point. I think that, if we want to include the “pegasister” controversy in KYMDB, it would need to be heavily researched. I also think that if we were to include it, it would have to be part of a larger discussion of the fandom as a whole, and I’m not sure if the MLP entry itself is the correct place for that. I would move it to the bronies entry, but bringing that thing out of deadpool is a whole other debate about how we structure our MLP entries.

Which, I guess, brings us back to our original topic: entry categorization. As I said before, I think there are a few ways in which KYMDB could be streamlined.

And, as I said, I agree that memes are evolving into a language of their own (of sorts). I encourage you to do some research and maybe create an entry about it.

… not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Though I was surprised on how quickly this discussion went from linguistics, to percieved brony masculinity. It’s kinda like Godwin’s Law with ponies.

Does the act of brining up Godwin’s Law, fulfill the conditions of Godwin’s Law?

See, that was the kind of shit I like to see
Ponies somehow became part of the conversation, and everyone remained calm and carried on
No fighting, no arguing, just people getting along, mulling things over in a civilized and intellectual manner

Good on ya guys


I’d be happy to make an article, with some assistance. I’ve been wanting to gather all my thoughts--actually--many user’s thoughts on the subject of memes as a linguistic tool. I’m currently a bit too busy to be taking on any articles. (Indeed, I’ve yet to finish any articles I’ve started)

@August Day
Walls of text… I kind of agree. I suppose I should have organized my thoughts a bit first. I apologize. I also kind of agree about ponies.

The only reason I mentioned that was because a friend of mine confused the origin of the word “brony,” just yesterday. It seemed somewhat on topic of Meme Elitism. (I used to be a brony, but I’d rather not talk about that, for the sake of getting back on track.)

Last edited Feb 22, 2013 at 10:42PM EST

@*opspe* and amanda b

Thank you guys! As soon as I get time to find solid research materials and academia to back up this theoretical approach to explaining the function of memes (and possibly subcultures as well), we can start with a page. It’s going to take a lot of organizing.

I’m thinking I might have to design some sort of tables to explain the idea.

Here’s a really fascinating article by Paul Bouisacc. (fyi it’s a PDF)

Wiki also has an Outline of Linguistics.


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