Among all the incredible entertainment options the internet has to offer, memes are no-doubt, way up there and they’ve gradually become something we web surfers just can’t live without.
If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re already familiar with the ridiculous meme-wars flying around the internet like a swarm of bats. Meme-hunting has now become a commonly abused activity, so much so that people starting taking the initiative devising different phone-gripping-devices to provide you with optimal comfort, as you scroll your time away. Yes, it’s gotten totally out of hand, we can’t stop, and we don’t care!
Now, what’s cool about memes, is that they’re not just designated for a one-time share or a single chuckle. Meme images are recyclable and can be mixed and matched with any silly (or not silly) catchphrase or quote, depending on the sense of humor of the particular, targeted audience.
If you’re reading this, you know what a meme is and if not, then shame on you. Now, if you’ve already dubbed yourself meme queen (or king), it’s still very likely that you are unfamiliar with its rich heritage and history. Yes, it turns out, those simple memes you’ve been tagging your friends in, (probably while sitting on the toilet), are more than just silly 21st-century entertainment.
Assuming we’ve sparked your curiosity, Popular Everything will now break down the thrilling meme-history for you. Prepare yourself; it’s somewhat shocking…
The word, “meme” first popped up in Richard Dawkins’s 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene.” The manuscript was written in attempt to explain how cultural information spreads and he called this idea, ‘” the meme concept.”
Under the “meme concept,” emanates its subcategory, Internet meme, which was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired. In his book, Godwin particularly discusses the connection between the spreading of cultural ideas and the distinctive environment of the web.
But it gets better – way before Dawkin was even born, memes were roaming the earth. However, they weren’t defined as “memes” just yet. So, how many years back do memes go? Forty years? Fifty years? A hundred years? No. WAY more than that. We’re talking about over 2,000 whopping years!
If you don’t believe us, buckle up because Popular Everything is ready to take you on a super exciting journey back in time, where we’ll unveil some of the oldest and viral memes. Some of them even date all the way back to the times of the Roman Empire.
1. The Sator Square
This one is probably the oldest meme in history and by far the earliest dateable 2D palindrome. The square reads, “Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas.” It’s meaning has been the subject of speculation, and still has no clear-cut translation.
The original square was found buried in the ruins of Pompeii, an ancient city covered in the ash of Mount Vesuvius. The phrase can be read upside down and backward, perfectly displaying the brilliant minds of the Roman society. This ancient meme went viral, spreading from Rome to France, England, Italy and all over the world.
2. The Three Hares
This extremely popular image spawned way back, during the Sui Dynasty in China. It features three hares chasing each other in a circle with their ears attached. The image became so viral that it spread all the way to Europe and ended up being turned into a widespread architectural feature across the globe.
It popped up on buildings in every corner of Britain, and fifteen centuries later, you can still find them all over the place. This meme proves the power a simple image can have and its fantastic ability to persist across time and cultures.
3. Kilroy Was Here
This meme was born in the U.S, during World War II. The image typically appears in graffiti but has also made its way onto the internet over the years. Kilroy is a wacky doodle of a bald man with an anteater nose, drawn peering over a wall. The strange drawing is normally accompanied by the phrase, “Kilroy Was Here”.
Rumor has it, Kilroy was a soldier that traveled all around the world, doodling his immortal name on every surface possible. The Kilroy meme’s earliest appearances were on military docks and ships, all the way back in the year of 1939. This meme could be spotted anywhere, even the Statue of Liberty. “Kilroy Was Here” eventually became a national joke, that went viral, long before social media or the internet even existed.
4. Frodo Lives
Decades before Lord of the Rings appeared in theatres; this two-word phrase spread throughout the world like a plague. “Frodo Lives” is a counterculture tag that started appearing between the 1960s and 1970s. The quote refers to the character, Frodo Baggins from the fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings and is commonly associated with the hippie movement.
You name it, ‘Frodo Lives’ could be spotted ANYWHERE – walls, posters, bumper stickers and even buttons. The phrase proved its immortality, as it still appears up to this day.
5. Andre The Giant Has a Posse
This street meme started its journey in 1989, in a small town in Rhode Island. Andre the Giant was a famous French wrestler, branded for his gigantic size. Between the 80s and 90s, this drawing managed to spread from poles to walls and even to sidewalks.
It all started when two design students casually created the image while working on their stenciling techniques. Soon after, they began posting their design all over Rhode Island streets and walls. Eventually, the meme went so viral that it started appearing in almost every major city in the U.S.
Below, a roundup of some of the funniest memes by Popular Everything. Enjoy!