Saturday, April 15, 2006

The four subjects of snowcloning.

Over at, Mark Liberman and Roger Shuy have been blogging about the Four Subjects of Whatever (April 2006 archives). You know, stuff like the Four Subjects of of Kieran's Woefully Misunderstood Psyche:

1. No one understands me.
2. I don't understand anyone.
3. I understand everyone perfectly and frankly it's depressing.
4. Oh well, might as well have a bagel.

It started me thinking about how memes get started and propagated around the internet. If someone in some blog/radio show/literary journal/whatever proposes a meme, that doesn't mean it's going to catch on, even if the audience is large. But if Mark picks it up for Language Log, it's a pretty good bet that it's going to be all over the internet within a week. And it isn't just because Mark is one of the most intellectually compelling people I know (although that is true). It's because the readership of Language Log really wants to be intellectually compelled in just the sort of way that leads them to categorize, list, and taxonify in a slightly snarky way. And their audiences in turn are likely to be similarly scientizingly neurotic.

Not all audiences are similarly compelled.


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