LOLCats and LOLCode
First of all, thanks to Lynn from Memphis and Mark Liberman from the University of Pennsylvania for allowing me (finally) to put a name to a meme that I've observed and enjoyed for over a year now, but up 'til recently had no idea as to its origins: LOLCats and LOLCode.
What are LOLCats? Here, let me show you [image credit]:
A LOLCat image is what is called an image macro or a cat macro. Wikipedia defines image macro thusly:
An image macro is a picture with text superimposed, typically through the use of graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Paint, or GIMP. The name image macro originates from the Something Awful Forums, where for a time the use of a preset "macro" text would insert into the post a corresponding image.
Although they come in many forms, the most common type of image macro is a photograph with large text superimposed in Impact font, using all upper case letters and colored white with a thin black outline.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that the LOL in LOLCats derives from the Internet slang abbreviation LOL, for laugh(ing) out loud.
Some of my long-time readers know that, in most cases, I consider netspeak to be teh sux0rz. However, with LOLCats I make an enthusiastic exception. The bottom line is that I find most of these images to be howlingly funny.
Sure, I've always been a 'cat person.' In point of fact, Susie and I have three of 'em. Consequently, seeing pictures of cats is something that I never grow tired of. It is truly a delicious match to have funny cat pictures combined with succinct, witty phrases.
Some may wonder, "Well, Tim, considering what an English grammar aficionado, I'm surprised that you enjoy the intentionally poor grammar that is used with these LOLCat images."
Sure enough—the consistently bad (stress consistent; more on this later) grammar is one of the reasons why I love the LOLCats macros so much. This is from Linguist Mystic:
In many of the pictures I found, I’ve noted pretty significant deviations from conventional English Grammar. Ranging from the incorrect application of language rules ("eated"), to internet style contractions ("plz" for "Please"), to out and out incorrect verb agreement ("I are serious cat"), many of these captions use blatantly bad grammar.
The fact of the matter, though, is that the bad grammar somehow makes it funnier. Somehow, saying “I am a Serious Cat, and this is a Serious Thread” doesn’t have the same ring to it. The best explanation I’ve come up with is that the grammatical errors remind English speakers of the speech of children, and thus, come up with more cuteness.
Some of the references in LOLCats images may be too esoteric for those of us who aren't super-plugged into Internet pop culture. Consider the following cat macro [image credit]:
For more information on Do Not Want, see my post "Star Wars the Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West." For my take on what I call the "interstitial period" usage, see my old post "Most.Annoying.Usage.Ever."
As Anil Dash noted in his piece "Cats Can Has Grammar," the captions in LOLCats images tend to follow along one of three lines:
- Im in ur X Yin ur Z
- Invisible X
- Kitty Pidgin (generated with or without the help of LOLCode)
A classic example of this first construction can be seen in the "Im in ur fridge eatin ur foodz" image I provided earlier in this article. Incidentally, this phrase evidently arose from the Internet meme "im in ur base, killing ur d00ds." More from Encyclopedia Dramatica:
I am in your base killing your d00ds is a catchphrase that can be roughly translated to "LOL you got pwned and don't even know it yet." It originated in on-line multiplayer RTS games such as Command and Conquer. While player one was innocently building tesla coils and general infantry, player two is in player one's base, killing his d00ds.
Teh origin of this meme:
Two players (one unnamed, the other known as 1337h4x (leetspeak for "Fucking Nerd")) are in a game of StarCraft, with 1337h4x playing as the Zerg race, and the other as either the Terran or Protoss races. 1337h4x Zerg-rushed his opponent, and on finding that he was getting raped, his opponent asked:
<n00b>dude, where are you?
<1337h4x> im in ur base, killing ur d00ds
Somewhat related to the d00ds meme is "All Your Base Are Belong To Us," about which I authored a post on July 4, 2005.
With regard to the "Invisible X" varietal of the LOLCats meme, a picture is worth a thousand proverbial words [image credit]:
Incorrect kitty pidgin jumped to my attention the first time I saw a reference to Dune being used with a lolcat image. The caption on the linked version of the image, "The spice must flow." is fine, if not particularly cat-like. But the caption on the version I saw first was much more verbose: "I are dunecat. I controls the spice, I controls the universe." Besides being an awkward attempt at overexplaining the punchline (I've never read Dune or seen the film, but the joke is obvious) this was just all wrong. The fact that we can tell no cat would talk like this shows that kitty pidgin is actually quite consistent.
Well I, for one, am extremely excited about the recent emergence of a toy programming language called LOLCode. I am a software developer, so the notion of building an application to help folks generate quality, "standards-compliant" LOLCat-speak tickles me.
Following is a sample LOLCode procedure that features variable declaration and a simple looping construct.
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IM IN YR LOOP
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10? KTHXBYE
IM OUTTA YR LOOP
For additional LOLCats enjoyment: