JOPLIN, Mo. —
Sometimes I don't think the Internet grasps how mean a meme can be.
I'm gonna keep myself from editing that last sentence out of my column, despite how OL'd I L'd.
Anyway ... I think I'm going to stop using that "Go home _____, you're drunk" meme, because it sounds reckless and heartless. Sure, it's funny. But I think it's also pushing it. So, it's time for it to die.
Most memes that show up on our Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus (I just made myself LOL again!) accounts have an inherent, innocent cuteness to them. Others are downright vicious. And others are awesome just because they are so succinct and sharp.
One of my favorite memes lately has been the "Because noun" wordplay, where the object of a discussion becomes the very evidence of whatever point is being made about the object. "Bacon is awesome, because bacon." Or "Chiefs lost in the playoffs because Chiefs."
The linguistic trick is brilliant because it's filled with confidence and bravado. The very object attempting to be described, justified or validated needs none of that -- only its existence is needed to prove its point. Correct usage is a hallmark of cleverness and wit.
That's probably why the American Dialect Society chose "because" as its word of the year. Forget "twerk," or "selfie," the word that the Oxford Dictionary chose as its word of the year. The ADS went with something vintage, old-school and classic.
Modern usage of the word on social networks gave it more power, as well. The use of the word eliminated the need for identifiers, subjects or other clauses. It really trimmed up the English language a bit.
And think about this: We're not seeing many people write "'cause" or "cuz" as a contraction for "because" anymore. As if growing with the bulk of the transitions it gobbled, "because" grew back to its true form! Outstanding!
I remember "because" being one of the most thrilling yet annoying words as a child:
- Thrilling because if a kid asked me anything I didn't feel like explaining, I would answer, "Because!" If the kid was undaunted and asked, "Because why?," all I had to do was repeat my trick: "Because because!"
- Annoying because that trick got played on me all the time, too.
It's good to see the power of the meme give power back to "because." It's a turn of phrase that catches attention and leaves an aftertaste of intelligence.
Which brings me to "Go home ______, you're drunk."
The "You're drunk" meme got started, like most memes, pretty hilariously. According to KnowYourMeme.com, it came from some bathroom graffiti posted to the Web. Underneath where someone wrote, "I f***** your mama!" someone else wrote, "Go home dad, you're drunk." Funny!
That use got mixed with other pop culture bits, including a picture of Darth Vader and Princess Leia from "Star Wars." Then someone in 2010 posted a picture of people running away from a crash-landing plane with the caption, "Go away plane, you are drunk."
From there, it exploded. The subject changed from something drinking-related to something in any unfortunate, strange position and just attributed the misfortune to alcohol.
People attached the caption and changed the object depending on what picture, gif or video they posted: A cat wearing a bag as a coat. A door open in the middle of a sidewalk. A horse wearing pants. A copy machine reading it was low on mayonnaise. Batman lying down, because Batman.
What bothers me is that I'm not sure anyone with a half-decent soul would tell a drunk person to go home.
It's one thing to tell a drunken dad to go home after trash-talking about your mom, but would we look at an obviously plastered punk and tell them to do something that implies driving home under the influence?
"Dude. Your inebriation annoys me to the point that I am comfortable instructing you to get behind the wheel and risk the lives of yourself and others so you can annoy no one else in the same manner." Is that what we're saying?
Anyone with experience behind a bar, however, knows I'm likely dragging out this extreme to Plasticman proportions. In talking about this on Facebook, bar-experienced friends told me that the statement is used all the time. So I'm likely just adopting the Internet's ability to get offended out of the least offensive thing possible here.
Still, if the Internet has taught me anything about standing alone with your principles, it's that you're never alone on social media, no matter what crazy thing you believe. That means I have no problem putting the "You're drunk" meme to bed, even if no one else does.
Joe Hadsall is features editor for the Globe. Contact him at jhadsall@joplin globe.com.