All your base belong to us

Himal Kotelawala takes a look at popular Internet memes

Yes, you read that right. It is a phrase that originated in 1991 as a poor translation of the opening text of a European video game and was made popular in the early 2000s when it was used in a Flash animation. It is but one example of hundreds of instances where broken English phrases, among other things, have received widespread publicity and popularity on the single human invention that has arguably changed the world in more ways than any other – the internet.

This phenomena, the result of what is known as an internet memes, range from catchphrases, Kanye West, animations, chain letters, spoof videos of popular movies to housecats caught on camera in highly compromising positions.

What started off as annoying chain letters sent vial e-mail as far back as the late ‘90s (how time has flown), internet memes have now evolved into a sort of ‘mass pastime’, if you will. People, yours truly included, waste hours of valuable time ROFLing (Rolling on the Floor Laughing) over these hilariously awkward pictures, videos, etc., etc. everyday in utter awe of what amazing feats joblessness can produce. Such is the power of the internet to inspire and distract, and we are more than happy to give in.
Let us have a look at two popular websites that capitalise on this particular aspect of the internet.

Fail Blog (http://failblog.org)

We’ve all heard of blogs. Just in case you haven’t, a blog, short for weblog, is a personal website that can be maintained by any individual or group where they can write journal entries, articles, etc. and upload pictures, audio and video clips on a regular basis. Most blogs have a comment feature where readers can share their views with the owner of the blog known as a blogger.

Fail Blog is similar – except that it’s not your everyday kind of blog with mind numbingly boring details about what the author had for breakfast. This is a blog aimed at one thing and one thing only – laughing at people.

Yes, we are all aware that it’s not nice to laugh at people. We all make mistakes, of course. But it’s all in the name of good humour and when it comes to humour, Fail Blog delivers like no other.

It works on the meme of calling on a ‘fail’ situation where individuals, toys, vehicles, signs, symbols and slogans (basically anything that serves a particular purpose) “fails” at what it’s supposed to do, or ends up in a ridiculously embarrassing and/or awkward position. Fail Blog is home to thousands of posts (entries) that highlight such situations.

For example, one recent entry titled ‘Smoke alarm fail’ showed an image of a fire alarm system with the sign: “Smoke Alarm – With silence feature!” This may not sound very funny when read here, but you WILL laugh when you see the actual image.

Fail Blog is not limited to fail situations alone, however. Instances where someone or something “wins” at a particular task, or simply does something that is humorous in a “cool” kind of way are also depicted. These are called Wins. Fails or Wins that are of a particularly higher order are called Epic Fails or Epic Wins.

In 2009 Fail Blog won two Webby Awards for People’s Voice in Humour and Weird. The Webby Awards are presented annually by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for excellence on the Internet.


The lolcat phenomenon is probably the most popular of all internet phenomena (although, that could be my cat bias talking). A ‘lolcat’ is an image of a cat with an odd “expression” on its face, caught in some kind of predicament, with a funny caption that is written in broken English and less than perfect grammar, usually in the point of view of the cat in question.

The word lolcat is a combination of the online acronym LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and Cat. Lolcats have become so popular over the years that no less a publication than Time Magazine devoted a page to the popular +meme in 2007 in an article titled “Creating a Cute Cat Frenzy.”

I Can Has Cheezburger? (http://icanhascheezburger.com/) is a website dedicated to lolcats that, according to Wikipedia, gets a massive 1.5 million hits a day. The site’s content is submitted by readers and hosts a handy little application called the LOL Builder that allows users to create their own lolcats.

As the Time Magazine article rightly says, it is easier to show lolcats than to explain it. So please pay Cheezburgers a visit. You won’t regret it. Just try not to get hooked on it.

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