Friday, 20 April 2012


Most of the proposed definitions of the term "meme" don't say anything about how good memes have to be at spreading to qualify as such - yet, popularly, memes are considered to be contagious ideas. The more contagious they are, the more appropriate the term "meme" seems.

In this spirit, Randolph Nesse has proposed the term "anti-memes" to refer to "unspeakable ideas".

He offers some examples, as follows:

  • The next time you are having a drink with an enthusiastic fan for your hometown team, say "Well, I think our team just isn't very good and didn't deserve to win."
  • Or, moving to more risky territory, when your business group is trying to deal with a savvy competitor, say, "It seems to me that their product is superior because they are smarter than we are."
  • Finally, and I cannot recommend this but it offers dramatic data, you could respond to your spouse's difficulties at work by saying, "If they are complaining about you not doing enough, it is probably because you just aren't doing your fair share."
Alas, by spreading these examples around, I seem to be negating the idea that these are true anti-memes, since they only fail to spread in one context. However, they do illustrate the basic idea.


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