MEMES from the real world: origins. Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene”, 1976.

The ‘meme’ phenomenon is a typical example of how millennials are changing the way we communicate and interact in this ‘Brave New World’: a short way of  ‘protesting’ or making fun of a situation.

It was introduced in 1976, by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene,” coined by him from Greek sources, e.g. mimeisthai “to imitate”, and intended to echo GENE.

In essence, a meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.

“We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.” [Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene,” 1976]

There are other variants to this word, which is frequently used in art and literature:

mi·me·sis /mɪˈmisɪs/ noun,

Rhetoric 1. imitation or reproduction of the supposed words of another, as in order to represent his or her character.
2. (in literature, film, art, etc.)
a. imitation of the real world, as by recreating instances of human action and events or portraying objects found in nature: This movie is a mimesis of historical events.
b. the showing of a story, as by dialogue and enactment of events. (source: dictionary.com)
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