According to Merriam-Webster:
- Main Entry: meme
- Pronunciation: \ˈmēm\
- Etymology: lteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme
- Date:1976: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture
Dictionary.com defines it a bit differently:
meme [meem] – nouna cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.[Origin: 1976; < Gk mīmeǐsthai to imitate, copy; coined by R. Dawkins, Brit. biologist]
Urbandictionary adds a vital aspect:
4 : in blogspeak, an idea that is spread from blog to blog
Here’s a story about memes and Debra Winger:
A few years ago, I went to see Debra Winger give a book talk (she wrote one) at the Los Angeles Public Library. I’ve always liked Debra Winger as an actress, especially in three films: Shadowlands, The Sheltering Sky, and Terms of Endearment.
Image above is from Bernardo Bertolucci’s sumptuously cinematographic The Sheltering Sky.
In the book talk, Winger described how much she didn’t enjoy her career as a movie star. But she said this in a haughty, immodest, and entitled manner … kind of like … a movie star! I was rapidly losing admiration for her, when Winger looked the interviewer dead in the eye (and, I thought, right at me too; I was seated in the first row). Totally out of the blue, she furrowed her eyebrow and asked, “Do you know what a meme is?”
Wow. That caught me off guard. I had just named my blog a meme.
She then answered her own question: “A meme is a cultural transference,” then added: “It’s a very interesting idea!”
I didn’t know what a meme was until my brother Mark told me I should call my blog one.
A direct Debra-to-Debra cultural transference.