As a writer I am always fascinated by how certain words or phrases come into use, and how people sometimes readily use what’s popular or current to express how they are feeling or thinking about any number of things without actually having to think or feel. What’s particularly fascinating about certain idioms or catch phrases is how we so easily glom onto them. By becoming a part of the common vernacular, these expressions or colloquiums in turn describe and define not only the culture of a specific decade, but also an entire generation.
The eighties were especially prolific in spawning coined words and catch phrases. Awesome eventually became annoyingly irksome, and was eventually replaced by bitchin’. And most everybody was easily categorized as couch potatoes, dinks, airheads, yuppies, Joanies, jocks, dweebs and scumbags. To be spontaneous meant going horizontal. And everything about the eighties was way cool. The proliferation continued on into the nineties with back in the day, stylin’, tweak, wacked, going postal, and chillin’ just to name a few.
And so it is with our current decade. During the early 2000’s when I was interviewing for teaching positions, I began to pick up on how my answers to certain questions that were asked of me became a “nice segue.” Segue to what I was never sure, but whenever I heard it expressed by the person interviewing me, I took it that we were connecting on some deep, personal level. Unfortunately not to the level, though, where I was offered a position.
Presently, one word that seems to have increased in amplitude during the last year has been “meme.” I never heard of it until a few months back when I encountered a blog that featured “book memes.” Curious as to what a “book meme” was, I read the individual’s posts only to discover that what she was featuring were no more than reviews of books that she had recently read. So my question then was why would a simple review or critique of a literary work be considered a meme? Not exactly sure what the term meant, I decided to look it up. Quite a few dictionaries later I finally found this entry in the 2000 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, which defines meme as “a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.”