i understand that many people might wonder WTF!? about the LOLcats and their fame – how is it that such a meme gets so popular? and are we really such a Leisure Society that we have nothing else to spend our time on? do we really not care about all the other shit going on in the world enough to spend time on humanitarian efforts and instead spend countless man hours making LOLcat jokes? the LOLcat meme as a whole is an interesting study in how the internet works and how people use it and what they want to use it for, and what sort of odd socio-anthropological cultural findings can be extracted from it remain to be seen.
i admit it’s sort of baffling, and until the LOLcat Bible appeared, despite the fact that i enjoyed it all immensely, i could not argue in any way that it was a productive use of time. it wasn’t until apophenia posted about the LOLcat bible the other day and people started commenting about the linguistic aspect that i pinned down why i think it’s so appealing to me and others and why it is actually NOT just an enormous waste of time.
first, it was just the super cute pictures and their funny captions, but then over time the popularity seemed to be less about the pictures and the captions and more about the language – and the language started being used for everything on the web.
as is obvious by this blog, written language is my primary mode of expressing myself, and the use of language in the world is one of my primary interests. to dig a little deeper, i studied linguistics in college – up to the point where i was translating languages i didn’t know based on given sets of rules, which is sort of fun, like a math problem, or kind of like doing cryptograms. also, because i’m sort of a grammar-nazi, this phenomenon has been incredibly interesting to me, particularly because i found LOLcat-speak invading my life even though i’ve been highly resistant to its ridiculously bad spelling and syntax other than for laughs: it started showing up in MY my personal speaking language (and even moreso, jay’s), and MY txting language, and MY writing language, and everyone else’s too. there’s now even a functional lolcat programming language.
LOLcat-speak has recently become what is more or less verifiably its own pidgin with its own grammar and rules. as the writer of this investigative link notes: “it’s possible to get cat-speak wrong.” “l33t sp33k” never really caught on with the mainstream (although much of LOLcat pidgin IS leet, e.g. “teh” and “SRSLY”), probably because it was too hard for most people to figure out how to use numbers to type words (myself included). because LOLcat uses phonetic spellings it makes it easy for everyone to pick up on. i would even hypothesize that LOLcat pidgin is perhaps the fastest spreading language in human history in terms of the language’s short evolution from LOLcat photos to full on syntax, and number of acquired users in the shortest period of time.
the LOLcat Bible is particularly interesting from a linguistic point of view, as pointed out in the comments in the post by apophenia, because the Bible is the most translated piece of literature in the world. so, if you’re a linguist and you’re trying to nail down the grammar and syntax rules of a language, looking at how they translated (or would translate) the Bible is generally the best place to start because there are so many comparative rule sets. how they choose to translate it also tells you a lot about the culture of the audience and the period (same goes for English versions of the Bible).
so not only is the LOLcat Bible a fascinating exercise in pidgin and linguistic mechanics, but also there has never been such a non-religious translation of the text with such a pop culture spin to it. the LOLcat language allows not only for seriously humorous irreverence but also insights into how the average mainstream internet user might interpret what the Bible has to say in the context of 2007. for those linguistically inclined, a lot is revealed about culture in this exercise.
my favorite example: the most often quoted verse of the Bible used by anti-gay Christians is Leviticus 18:22, which in the KJV reads:
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
in LOLCat Bible, it reads:
“No can has teh buttsecks wif teh mens. (hehe)”
with that, i digress.Filed in culture and random linkage, personal favorites | Comments (4)