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Picture Unrelated is an expression commonly used on imageboards to denote that picture attached is unrelated to the subject matter discussed in the post / thread. Such practice of attaching unrelated, filler images quickly gained popularity on 4chan, mainly due to the site’s requirement of image attachment for every thread or reply post submitted by users.
According to various accounts, “picture unrelated” began on 4chan’s /r/ (request) board, where users can submit and fulfill various requests for particular links or downloadable files. While there are few archival resources available for early years of 4chan, one of the first archived instances of “picture unrelated” images can be found in a personal blog entry by Amy posted on September 12th, 2006. The image is based on an original artwork titled Rooster Zebra Contemplating Grilled-Cheese Sandwich (2004) by San Diego-based painter Matt Forderer:
Since becoming popular on 4chan’s /r/ and /b/ (random) boards, “picture unrelated” images eventually evolved into a joke beyond its functional use on imageboards, spawning a set of highly nonsensical and even surrealistic pictures. “Picture Unrelated” images have been also posted on various discussion forums and humor blogs like Reddit, Urban Dictionary, Encyclopedia Dramatica, FunnyJunk and Memebase among others.
The phrase is most commonly used by OPs (original posters) on imageboards to make a quick request with minimum efforts, as in uploading any picture to meet the requirement of image attachment. By declaring “picture unrelated” in the said post, one may be excused for posting something that has nothing to do with the request itself.
Despite its widespread nature, using “picture unrelated” images as the default filler can be regarded as controversial in some communities, as it may pose significant distraction or opportunities for trolls to derail from the original topic. In addition, such practice of posting “unrelated picture” may be counter-constructive, as lack of visual aid or context makes the request less accessible for the readers.
Eventually, the catchphrase “picture unrelated” spawned several derivative expressions, including “picture related” and “picture semi-related” among others.