And now for something a little different…

Neologism generator
Neologism generator (Photo credit: Peter Forret)

A few days ago, my son introduced me to the word “philosoraptor.” It’s a neologism (a newly-coined word) that refers to a humorous, pseudo-philosophical bit of wordplay such as:

“If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?”

(Sorry, I don’t know the origin of this example, though it’s unfortunately very apropos at the moment.)

According to my son, “philosoraptor” is an example of an “internet meme“, which is an idea that is propagated on the internet. There is usually an image that accompanies an internet meme and in the case of philosoraptor it’s a charming little picture of a thoughtful-looking Velociraptor. (I had the image here, but when I hit “Publish” I lost the entire post – the second time that’s happened when I tried to include an image in a post. Got to figure that one out.)

I learned all about the origins of the philosoraptor internet meme at:

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/philosoraptor

The image is credited to (and copy-righted by) Sam Smith who designed it to put on T-shirts. The word probably has multiple origins.

I also became interested in the word “meme“, because I was not familiar with it. It turns out to also be a neologism coined about twenty years ago by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. He conceived a meme as being somewhat analogous to a gene. The best current working definition of “meme” seems to be “an idea that is passed from person to person through imitation,” although Dawkins usage included the rather bizarre notion that memes were infectious, like viruses. Regardless, “meme” has definitely gone mainstream. There’s a related field called “memetics.”

Neologisms are great examples of a way in which language change happens, in this case through the creation of new words. It’s fun, it’s easy, and best of all, anyone can do it.

2 Comments

  • Kourtney Heintz

    April 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm Reply

    I’ve just stumbled onto the term meme lately and I don’t quite get it. I do however like the term philosoraptor. 🙂

    • Carol Wuenschell

      April 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm Reply

      I’m not sure I totally get meme either. On the internet, it seems to be some relatively self-contained image/word/phrase/idea that gets picked up and propagated by imitation because people just like it. The Philosoraptor meme includes both the image and the plays on words. My son says there’s usually an image with a meme. Troll-face is another one. There’s an image of an ugly, nasty face and it goes with the idea of trolling – saying nasty things on the internet to try to elicit a reaction.

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