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Doge is a slang term for “dog” that is primarily associated with pictures of Shiba Inus (nicknamed “Shibe”) and internal monologue captions on Tumblr. These photos may be photoshopped to change the dog’s face or captioned with interior monologues in Comic Sans font.
The use of the misspelled word “doge” to refer to a dog dates back to June 24th, 2005, when it was mentioned in an episode of Homestar Runner’s puppet show. In the episode titled “Biz Cas Fri 1”, Homestar calls Strong Bad his “d-o-g-e” while trying to distract him from his work.
On October 28th, 2010, a photo of a dog was submitted to the /r/Ads subreddit with the title “LMBO LOOK @ THIS FUKKIN DOGE,” where it received 266 upvotes, 218 points overall and 48 comments prior to being archived. Sometime in April 2012, Tumblr user leonsumbitches uploaded an audio file of a computer reading a passage written like the commands of a turn-based adventure game about encountering a “doge.” The passage was paired with a photo of a woman patting a dog on the head and has gained more than 33,000 notes as of July 2013.
In response, the single topic blog Your Daily Doge was created, but was quickly abandoned after reblogging leonsumbitches’ post several times. On May 7th, YouTuber KwandaoRen66 uploaded a video with a person reading the text over a fake Pokemon battle. By June, doge threads in which numerous people shared photos of dogs in different outfits began appearing on 4chan boards, including /v/ (Video Games). The same month, a photoset of a dog with a cup and saucer balanced on his head went viral on Tumblr after airpi referred to it as “Polite Doge.” In August, the first doge single topic blog, Fuck Yeah Doge, launched on Tumblr. The growth in summer 2012 coincided with the popularity of the single topic Tumblr Shiba Confessions, as people began to refer to these dogs as “shibes.”
In December 2012, the term “doge” appeared on Reddit in a post submitted to /r/DogsIWannaHug. The same month, an interior monologue captioned photo of a Schnauzer was submitted to Cheezburger with the title “Schnauze.” On January 8th, 2013, the subreddit /r/Doge was created, sharing photos and videos of the captioned Shiba Inus. In May, /r/dailydoge was created to share one dog photo a day, captioned or not. Another single topic blog, shibe-doge, launched in July 2013 dedicated to sharing Shiba Inu photos. On July 29th, 2013, a doge thread was sticky-featured to the top of the 4chan board /s4s/ (Shit 4chan Says), garnering more than 600 replies.
On November 20, 2013, Youtube implemented an Easter egg, that changes the text to be colored and in Comic Sans, much like the original internal-monologue style captions, when user searches the phrase “doge meme”.
4chan’s /r/Murica Raid
On the evening of August 26th, 2013, a group of users on 4chan raided against Reddit’s tongue-in-cheek patriotic forum /r/Murica, flooding the subreddit’s frontpage with dozens of photoshopped images depicting the Doge character in All-American-themed settings (shown below). According to The Daily Dot’s report, the raid started late Sunday night and lasted until about 12:15 p.m. (ET) on August 27th, at which point /r/Murica’s moderators began removing Doge-related posts from the subreddit index. Unlike previous clashes between the users of 4chan and Reddit, the sudden influx of Doge images was reportedly met by little opposition from Reddit’s userbase, reflecting the growing popularity of the character outside of Tumblr.
Search interest for the word “doge” is consistent as it is also a Venetian term for “leader” used as a title in some Italian “crowned republics” including Genoa and Venice. However, there has been an upward spike since May 2013.