Sunday, September 21, 2008

Willow's Weekly Word

Marie asked me last week, when I posted a meme, and I had to
stop and think. What exactly is a meme, anyway, and how did the
word originate? In the context of blogs, (the word blog is derived
from web logs, by the way) it's generally a list of questions that are
answered and then passed on to others and so on, often in the form
of a tag game. I pronounce meme so it rhymes with dream and
others pronounce it mem, like in memory.

A meme is:
  • An idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.
  • A unit of cultural information that represents a basic
    idea that can be transferred from one individual to
    another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and
  • A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior)
    that is passed from one generation to another by
    nongenetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the
    cultural counterpart of genes".


The term and concept of
meme is from the 1976
book by Richard Dawkins,
The Selfish Gene. Though
Dawkins defined the meme
as "a unit of cultural
transmission, or a unit of
imitation," memeticists vary
in their definitions of meme.
The lack of a consistent, rigorous definition of what
precisely a meme is remains one of the principal
criticisms leveled at memetics, the study of memes.
(from Wikipedia)
And that's the best I can do, since I'm not a memeticist!
So, there you have it!
(photo from Flickr)


  1. Wow, that is so interesting. I think you are right, "meme" should be pronounce like "gene" then. Who would have guessed? Thanks for setting me straight on this.

  2. Thanks for the definition. I didn't know what meme meant. I thought it had something to do with "all about me!" Me Me! Have a great week.

  3. THANK YOU for the explanation. I've been wondering for ages what a meme is exactly and where the term came from. Ahhh, clarity!

  4. I was really pronouncing it funny! I was saying mem-ee! :)

  5. Strider, that's what I thought it was. Me. Me.

    And here all this time I've been pronouncing it (don't laugh)


    I have no idea why.

  6. Oh! Interesting--I always just figured it had something to do with the french "la meme chose" or something. I always pronounce it MEM as in memory, so I likened it to the French. Thanks for the education! Who knew!

  7. Good word for today! Thanks for clarifying that one.

  8. Ahh clarity is right! It's odd that is has become such a standardly used almost 'pop' word!

  9. Hello Willow !
    Not a good idea "meme" ! Bof !

    But Your photo is beautiful, near the sea...
    Is her You ???

  10. Willow, I think of art as the perfect environment for meme. Artist are always seeking to redefine their reality, to learn from the last work and to use that knowledge to create.

    Embrace the Fall, it's one of natures true gifts.

  11. Fascinating how these things spread so fast on the blogs. Really like the look of the farmer's market soup btw....(live in a growing area).

  12. Interesting.
    I also thought it was me-me.

    Alida (Long Island Woman)

  13. thanks - I wondered - thought I knew, and now I truly know!

  14. and I thought it was ME ME ... because they all seem to be about the person posting them, hence the ME ME at least it is to ME


  15. It is an odd word! But a great definition.

    CJ xx

  16. Willow,
    Since the questions are always personal, I too thought it was mee mee. It's all about me, until we're all done and then the complete replication is about we and then it's a weem or a wewe. ;-)

  17. i like thinking about how an idea can "replicate and evolve". i think that's a lot what blogging does for me. it gets me thinking about what i want to say or write. and then reading other blogs is such a wonderful learning experience. i often find myself talking about or thinking about the blogs i've read which leads to more thinking and evolution of thought. btw, i'm with you -- when i say meme it rhymes with dream.

  18. I only recently searched for the origin of the word "meme", after encountering it again and again on blogs. As always, it is fascinating how one word acquires various meanings.

  19. P.S.:
    Willow, your header photograph,
    with the ginkgo leaves on the hydrangea blossoms, is exquisite!
    Do you have a ginkgo tree in your garden? It is my favorite tree.

  20. Could it have its origin even further back in the French word 'même'? I am thifnking of:

    'Je veux le faire moi-même. (stressed pronoun) I want to do it myself.
    Elle est la gentillesse même. She is the epitome of kindness (is kindness personnified).'

    I don't know, just a thought. Anyway, it was a very good post, as usual.

    Greetings from London.

  21. I know hardly any French, but I like your theory better than what I found online! It makes more sense, doesn't it?

  22. And I thought it just meant Me Me in that they are usually about ourselves.
    Well you guessed right. I'll pass your words on and we will remember you.

  23. Meme (disambiguation)
    Meme, or MEME, may mean:

    Meme, a term borrowed by Richard Dawkins, referring to a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. A derivation of either French même (lit. "same"), or Greek mimeme (something imitated). See also Mimesis.
    An Internet meme, a meme or fad that spreads quickly through the Internet.

    (best that I could come up with)


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)