Internet Humour

Memes. Trends

Internet Humour

The internet, much as you would expect, has its very own subversive subculture. The web is awash with clever in-jokes and amusing video clips that flit across cyberspace at the click of a mouse. These little nuggets are known as "memes", a term first coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene to describe ideas or cultural phenomena, such as tunes or jokes, that spread through similar mechanisms to those seen in biological natural selection. The term has become popular as a way to describe internet phenomena that proliferate "virally".

Example of a "Meme"

Lolcats - amusing pictures of cats accompanied by humorous captions full of deliberate mispellings and peculiar grammar. Hence the name - "lol" is internet speak for "laugh out loud". The lolcat phenomenon first appeared on two influential websites, the imageboard 4chan ( and the comedy site Something Awful (, in about 2005. The idea was picked up in 2007 by Eric Nakagawa, a blogger from Hawaii, who brought the phenomenon to a wider audience, and whose website now receives as many as two million visits a day. Lolcat captions have also inspired a programming language, LOLCODE ( and a translation of the Bible ("Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs..."; see for more).

More on Internet Humour

"Internet humor" is distinguishable from "Humor on the Internet" through the concept of ownership. There are definite examples of humor restricted by copyright law on the internet; examples include the cartoons of Dilbert or the newspaper columns of Dave Barry. "Internet humor" is regarded as that which belongs to the public domain. Internet humor may also be regarded as humor that specifically relies on characteristics belonging to the Internet, such as "geek" or "hacker" humor (i.e, humor that would not exist if not for the Internet). Generally, this type of semi-institutionalized humor starts as a specific group's in-joke, and grows until it reaches a significant portion of Internet users, gaining popularity, "rules" and mythos. The concept of authorship with regard to Internet humor is very difficult to define. Frequently a "list" type joke may get started but within a few generations of distribution it evolves beyond recognition. A classic example is the well-known "you have two cows" joke - after circulating in other media throughout the 1980s, it seems to have first appeared on the Internet in 1993 with simple descriptions of communism, capitalism, and socialism. However, it was later expanded to include all forms of government, regional variations, philosophical systems, and even art movements. Attempting to define an "author" of the joke hence becomes impossible, and it becomes a publicly owned resource, simply because no one could validly claim legitimate ownership. Though the Internet has allowed the global explosion of collectively-authored comedy, its precursors existed on bulletin boards, corporate messaging systems, and even through such low-tech mechanisms as the facsimile since at least the 1970s.

Godwin's Law (Also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies)

This internet law was proposed by Mike Godwin back in 1990.  His law states: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (certainty)".

Doug Welch's "Greenoch"

It's hard to decide which martial art is the most powerful.  Follows of karate, Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu, and kickboxing all make strong claims. To silence them all Doug created an ancient Scottish martial art called "Greenoch" complete with a Kata and detailed descriptions of the weapons used. Two unexpected turns of fate propelled "Greenoch" into the Meme hall of fame.  Firstly practitioners of other martial arts vehemently defended their own sport.  Secondly, people began to correct Doug and out-do his account with ever more fanciful capabilities of this Scottish sport. Footnote: Please send us your examples internet memes

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