Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ah ha!

I googled the word meme because I wanted to know just exactly what it meant. I have the general idea from reading enough blogs, of course, but I wanted a definition. And this is what I got from Wikipedia. It took me a second to follow of course, my brain being on auto pilot, but it was interesting to find what the word does mean. At first I had to laugh at the way that it was explained. Sounds so very important, doesn't it? Then it made me think about how we use words all of the time without having a clue what they mean.
I love knowing what words mean. Of course, the problem with the knowledge of what a word means is the fact that we have to reconstruct our sentences to more accurately reflect what we intent to say, instead of speaking in the haphazard sort of fashion that comes easiest in our day.
This word, meme, is obviously an evolutionistic term. I do see why it is used the way it is in reference to functions of the blogging world. Hhmm. Anyway...
So, in case anyone wanted to know the origin of the term for this thing that bloggers do all the time:

A meme (pronounced /miːm/), as defined by memetic theory, constitutes a theoretical unit of cultural information, the building block of culture or cultural evolution which spreads through diffusion propagating from one mind to another analogously to the way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. Multiple memes may propagate as cooperative groups called memeplexes (meme complexes).
Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976. He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches.
Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (similarly to Darwinian biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity's reproductive success. So with memes, some ideas will propagate less successfully and become extinct, while others will survive, spread, and, for better or for worse, mutate. "Memeticists argue that the memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes that replicate the most effectively spread best, which allows for the possibility that successful memes may prove detrimental to their hosts."

A short story written in 1876 by Mark Twain, A Literary Nightmare, describes his encounter with a jingle so "catchy" that it plays over and over in his mind until he finally sings it out loud and infects others (also known as an earworm).


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