Did you know that meme was coined as a scientific word in the 1970s?

Yep. Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, wanted a word to describe ideas or behaviors that quickly spread from person to person within a culture, so he came up with meme, from the Greek mimesthai. His own thought-process is thus:

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’. [Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene,” 1976]

By 1997, popular computer culture had picked up the word and used it to mean “images or snippets of video, audio, or text that spread rapidly from one internet user to another.”

Bet you didn’t know that the meme you just shared is part of the study of biology, did you? 😉

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