Have you ever had a thought running through your head that just would not leave? Maybe, it was a jingle from your youth (“Plop Plop Fizz Fizz…”) or a buzz word/phrase that stays on the tip of your tongue indefinitely (“That’s what she said.”). It might have even been a set of experiences or qualities associated with a specific product (like having an iPod/Phone/Pad). All of these are based on a tiny little packet of cultural information called a meme.
Memes were first coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976). The argument is that memes, like genes, are spread by the interactions of their conceptual carriers. Verbal, written, symbolic, and behavioral transmissions serve to propagate the meme. The more “catchy” the idea, the longer it lingers in the collective consciousness, or meme pool. So any persistent notion may have that meme quality.
My daughters have saddled my mind with a meme I can hardly shake. Sadly, I fully participated in its absorption. They play a game like Slug Bug. Also known as Punch Bug, you call out when you see a Volkswagon Beetle, and give another player a punch when you see a specific color. There’s no hitting as a rule in our house so they streamlined the game to simply being the first to see a yellow vehicle of any kind. So, imagine driving to the doctor, or the grocery, or your mother-in-law’s house and the conversation or radio listening is randomly interrupted by a shout of, “Yellow!”.
“How was your day at work, hon?”
“Oh, not so bad. I saw an intersting…”
As I said, the worst part is the fact that I have been co-opted into my own brainwashing. I started calling out, “Yellow!” as well. It turns out, I’m even better at the game then the girls. So good, in fact, that I now find myself thinking, “Yellow!” even when they are not in the car. I can not go anywhere without internally wanting to recognize the color on anything with wheels. Don’t laugh, it could happen to…Yellow!…you, too.