Lolcats: An Approval

Unless you’ve been sleeping underneath a Hotmail account, you’ve probably seen Lolcats somewhere during your daily peregrinations through the wilds of the Internet. The nagging question the Fort Saint Davids team is asking itself at the moment: did we invent them? We can’t answer that right now.

What we do want to do right now is applaud them. The FSD team has been tracking, recording, rooting for, and often contributing to the disintegration of the written — typed, rather — word via Internet and Text Messaging corruption since we got our first modems. The same delight critics like Norman Mailer enjoyed in recording 1950’s HipSpeak, we find in trying in trying to translate the collective argo of a World of Warcraft raiding party.

Here’s the Wikepedia entry on Lolcats:

Lolcats, a compound of lol and cat[1], are photos of cats with humorous captions. They are a type of image macro, and are thus also referred to as cat macros. Lolcats are created for the purpose of sharing them with others on imageboards and other internet forums, especially on Saturdays (“Caturdays”).[2]

Lolcat images consist of a photo, sometimes photoshopped, with words over the photo that are characteristically formatted in a sans serif font such as Impact or Arial Black.[3] The captions generally act as speech balloons encompassing a comment from the cat or simple descriptions of the depicted scene, written in what has been variously called a kind of pidgin[3] or baby talk.[4] They are usually intentionally grammatically incorrect, with errors in spelling and syntax[3] featuring “strangely-conjugated verbs.”[5] Lolcats are similar to other animal-based image macros, such as the O RLY? owl and captioned pictures of walruses (lolruses), dogs, hamsters, birds, and rabbits.

In 2003, Alexander Z., Maria T., and your humble narrator invented the Mangy Street Dog, a “fake account” who would post pseudo-prophetic nonsense (in all caps) on a local Philadelphia message board. Mangy Street Dog later spawned the Insane Feral Cat, Legend of Street Dog, and others. We also co-wrote (Gibbs was in on some of these) a few insane characters who would post on the boards but have no idea why, talking mostly in mis-typed convoluted syntax about their mundane obsessions, like grilling meat on the driveway in the winter, i.e. “when yo step to my grill, flames rise”, pointless threats (“yo cant handlldle no t-krisp chiknkn i fkcn stab ye”), or stoned nonsense (“am i on the inrnet? r u my stoney pop?”)


From another site, regarding Italian Futurist poetry from the early 20th century:

Futurist literary theory[6] was intent upon increasing the expressivity of language. A Futurist poet would project words from the page like a machine gun firing bullets. This they did with a variety of techniques both visually and sonically. They were especially interested in those methods which would blur the borderline between the dimensions to create a synesthesia: by evoking all of the senses, the work would have a more profound impact. *Paolo Buzzi, parole in liberta (1916)

The mots in liberta poetry of Italian Futurism contained no adjectives, adverbs, finite verbs, punctuation — anything that would slow it down. It was mostly a collage of nouns, and this form of their poetry was intended to be an uninterrupted sequence of new images. Their parole in liberta poetry functioned on a level below mots in liberta, at what the Futurists believed to be the basis of all language: onomatopoeia. This they defined in their technical manifestos of consisting of four basic types: realistic, analogical, abstract (the ‘sound of a state of mind’), and psychic harmony (the fusion of two or three of the abstract representations).

Here’s our pal Gibbs himself, on the subject:

Frong prozesz dof langs e-wolwa-ing inwolves travelling along a wave in which the most refined and civil speech will appear as peaks, while periods characterized bie brakken gramatische,

foneamaeoloycl manys-changation, aent utlz dof seido forne vords arr simmin traffs. Wen muovesune long fhes uave it will be very difficult to discern whether the state of language is currently at a peak or in a trough, but, faced with a constant onslaught of idiomatic change and new vocabulary, the speaker may be inclined to fear that it is perpetually headed toward the latter.

Alex and I started writing the Hi-Rise emails last summer. We posted the entire collection here on the Miltonian back in October — here’s the link. The point was they were supposed to be written by people so hyperactively turned onto the world and charged with wildhope that they didn’t even have time to capitalize or punctuate properly or spell — missives written so fast that the keys jam up and everything comes out wrong and all you can do is read it for the spirit of the thing, cherry-picking the information through the torrents of language like a skimmed online New York Times article, scrolling down fast with a mouse and onto the next thing in a click’s time. Messages most likely hastily written on a PDA or a Sidekick, while open air blasts through the open window of a car while zooming down a New Jersey highway towards the beach.

Here’s the first of the new Spring 2007 batch of HiRise Messages, co-written by Alex and myself.

it has been some time
but the bloom, it be arrive
and so ye re-enter the hirise
and inside the apartment
ye smell the steaks
from the smoke and flames
that rise
from the kitchen
ye realize a steak is being prepared
so ye play pokemon diamond on ye DS
relaxing on plush couch
drinking ye diet shasta
while ye wait for ye steak
which ye shall smother
in A-1 steak sauce
so help you god

the next day yo
skateboard with yo pals to yo local fast food place luffy duffy
yo order the duffy fish filet
the cod, it be battered in weisenbock
coated with cornflake batter
fried til golden
the tartar
it be made with dill
and mayo
and dijon
and the finest pickles
you feel inexplicable strength from the cod
yo cod was caught yesterday
in puget
by a man named
SMYTHE
he smited the cod
and battered yo filet
that yo now see before yo
on you luffy duffy tray
with yo shoestring fries
and yo roasted yellow bell pepper aioli that comes with it
and yo drink hawaiian punch
yo skate over to E.J.’s house
where montana hangs out
and yo heard they’d all be there
and E.J.
opens up the garage door facing backyard
and yo skate in basement
and yo somehow land
yo OLLIE IMPOSSIBLE
over the couch
and yo pals,
they heap the praise
upon yo
it is 11:30pm
shasta flows in torrents
first 20 be at the party
then 30
then 40
then 50
then 60
until E.J.’s basement cannot hold yo
and yo party spills out
into the neighborhood
yo split off from the group
with yo four pals
yo know a spot
and yo camp out
instead of go home

It’s no longer a matter of a change that’s gonna come — it’s how fast it’s going to continue arriving. One man’s devolution is another man’s evolution. Lolcats take us neither forward nor backward; if the direction is anywhere, it’s lateral. Zerosummind offers up this chart:

As our old pal Driz would say — type, rather:

lool

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7 thoughts on “Lolcats: An Approval

  1. Many many years ago, when I was in college, I saw one of these things that has been tattooed to my memory ever since. It was a picture of several Chocolate Jello Pudding Pops with legs and they were chasing a kitten. The caption read: “Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten.”

    Looks like PETA is about to send their SWAT team to break down my front door and lynch me for attempted feline genocide.

  2. This is one of my favorite posts so far.
    I’ve had “INVISIBLE SHOPPING CART” lolcat on my desk
    bulletin board for 3 weeks now.

    • The original Lolcats were way more interesting and not intended for mass consumption — just look at the ones I put up in that original post. They originated from a much weirder, more internet-y and less fwd-to-your-mom place: the original online memes, mostly from online gaming jargon (“in in yr base, killin yr dudes”…”pwnd”…”epic fail”…”pew pew”).

      However, the post’s prophecy is true. Language HAS degraded in the years since I made it, and the humor of Lolcats syntax had a huge part of it. Lolcats predicted the compressed, abbreviated language of Twitter.

      They also show how gaming is still the secret force that moves the web. Gaming culture created lolcats, they had online chatrooms with avatars long before we had a “My” space or a “Face” book. The “gamification” of internet is a real buzzword now, as people “unlock” badges in Foresquare like you’d unlock and achievement on the Xbox.

      In conclusion: LOL

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