Doges and lolcats

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I don’t normally write about internet memes, but I do like to write about the way language changes and I think that increasingly those changes are conceived online.

Captioned pictures of animals speaking in a unique way are nothing new. We’ve had the “O RLY?” owl and the lolcat but the latest addition is the doge, the Guardian’s candidate for meme of 2014.

Each animal meme has its own grammar, mimicking the supposed thought patterns of the animal in question. So while lolcats are obsessed with “can has”-ing more things, doges are in a constant state of “amaze” and “wow”. I can’t quite work out why owls would be incredulous, but then they are famously wise creatures, so perhaps they know something I don’t.

As some of these memes move offline, their grammatical patterns may become standard use. After all, “hello” started as a telephone greeting before becoming ubiquitous. That said, I can’t imagine the boss asking if he “can has a photocopy of much annual report“.

For a more in-depth look at the grammar of the doge meme, listen to Gretchen McCulloch on Radio 4. Gretchen also wrote a great article for The Toast blog.

A final note on pronunciation. Clarity’s style is “dogue” (to rhyme with “vogue”). “Dog-e” is too easily confused with “doggie” and “dohj” sounds too much like a Venetian ruler. Although the latter does give me a great excuse to use the following picture:

doge doge

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