One of my favorite guilty pleasures is looking at pet memes on various social media platforms. Inevitably, when I see a clever meme I think about how funny pets are and how creative some people can be. So I thought, let’s turn this guilty pleasure/time-wasting vortex into an article. That way, at least for today, I won’t feel bad about indulging.
Let’s begin with a definition.
Meme: The word is a derivation of the Greek word mimem which means “to imitate” or “imitated thing.” It was coined by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist from the UK, as a way to describe cultural ideas and phenomena that reproduce and spread. The creation and proliferation of memes is enhanced by the internet, and the ease in which you can share them.
With the advent of cellphone cameras, taking photos of your pets has never been easier. Most people I know have a photo roll full of adorable pet pictures. To create a meme, you just place a border around a cute or funny photo, write a caption and post it to a social media site.
There are many individually funny pet memes. An internet search for best pet memes can have you smiling for hours. When I asked my friends to post some of their favorite memes (I love this job), I was introduced to some new ones and reminded of some old favorites. Every time I see the meme of a toupee-topped Chihuahua with the caption “Lawd hammercy, lemme put on my good hair” I hoot. What makes this a successful meme is the perfect combination of image and words. In the photo, you see a solemn dog looking straight into the camera with his “hair” placed perfectly. That alone is funny. And the words fit the image to a tee.
Another notable meme features a photo of a Dachshund in a red jacket with his head thrown back and his eyes wide. He is obviously howling and the caption says “Someone is at the door. Let me sing them the song of my people.” If you have a dog that barks or howls when someone knocks on the door, then this probably resonates with you.
When memes combine the perfect image with choice words, sometimes they do more than go viral. Sometimes they inspire an entire sub-culture.
The Doge Meme
This funny pet meme—Doge—originally featured a cute if not overly intelligent rescued Shiba Inu dog named Kabosu. The memes show a dog, sometimes alone and sometimes photoshopped into odd environments, with captions randomly placed on the image. The dog is ridiculously expressive but what makes the meme so popular is the use of internal monologue captioning, using the Comic Sans font with poor spelling and broken grammar.
Since the Doge Meme started in 2010, there have been other dogs in addition to Kabosu, but Japanese kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato’s dog started the rage. In case you’re wondering, “doge” is an intentional misspelling of the word “dog.”
The name says it all. LOLcats are memes that feature images of cats with funny captions written in a form of broken English that’s often referred to as “LOL speak.” Apparently Happy Cat, a British shorthair, was the original LOLcat. He also spawned the I Can Has Cheezburger website.
LOLcat-type images have been around for ages. Back in the 1800s a photographer named Harry Pointer took photos of cats in unusual surroundings and added humorous captions. In the 20th century, Harry Whittier Frees did the same thing, continuing the theme of cute cat photographs with funny text. Fast forward to the 70s and you may remember the motivational images of a cat hanging from a tree branch with the caption “Hang in there, Baby.”
LOLcats and their predecessors prove that an image of a cute cat with a funny caption can go a long way.
If somehow this phenomenon has eluded you, let me introduce you to Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat. Linda Cole wrote about this feline in the RPO article, 12 Unforgettable Pets of 2012. That’s right; this cat has been around for a while and is still extremely popular. Grumpy Cat’s Facebook page has nearly 7 million “likes” and Grumpy Cat-inspired memes still roll through social media feeds with regularity. The viral nature of Grumpy Cat is an example of memes perpetuating because of the cat’s unusual appearance – his “grumpy” facial expression.
Dog Shaming memes started in 2012 when Pascale Lemire posted a photo of her Dachshund after he ate her husband’s underwear. The concept was picked up by an internet editorial director and it took off from there. Next came a YouTube video featuring a Beagle being “shamed” because he destroyed stuffed animals and hoarded plastic water jugs. Since then, it has grown steadily.
People upload images of their dogs (cats too!) on the Dog Shaming website, usually with evidence of their misbehavior in the photo and a humorous sign of admission. Some of funniest illustrate the lengths dogs will go to for their favorite treats. A recent entry— which probably wasn’t so funny to the homeowners—shows a dog that chewed through kitchen cabinetry to get to his treats (the tasty CANIDAE Pure Heaven biscuits, I’ll bet!).
So, there are stand-alone memes, memes based on a single character and memes based on a theme. Do you have a preference? What’s your favorite pet meme?
Memes by Langley Cornwell
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