How to speak Doge
Many science. Much blog. Wow!
If you’ve used the Internet in the past three years, you will instantly be familiar with images like these:
These are examples of ‘Doge’. No, I’m not talking about the ruler of Venice – I’m talking about the Internet meme that had everyone talking in truncated sentences in 2013.
According to Know Your Meme, Doge originated in 2010 when a Japanese kindergarten teacher uploaded some cute photos of her Shiba Inu, Kabuso, to her blog. Reddit users started playing around with the photo. These edits became increasingly popular, spreading around the globe. By 2013, the Doge meme emerged in its current form.
Doge memes typically consist of colourful Comic Sans phrases scattered over a picture of a Shiba Inu (or ‘shibe’ in Internet speak). There is a lot of diversity, and Doge memes can be very creative, as this alternative version of Romeo and Juliet demonstrates. Even without the Shiba Inu and the Comic Sans, Doge memes are recognisably ‘doge’ purely through the language they use.
Through the Doge meme, Internet users have created their own Doge ‘language’. Like real languages, Doge has rules and conventions that must be followed in order for phrases to be ‘grammatical’. Here, I don’t mean following the rules of normal English grammar. Rather, I’m using the term as a linguist would, to describe whether a native speaker would intuitively accept certain phrases as ‘correct’ in their language. A ‘native speaker’ of Doge can instantly tell if a sentence is Doge or not through the grammar that is used.
So if you’re unfamiliar with Doge, how can you become fluent in this strange language? The best way to learn a language is through immersion. To become a true master, search ‘Doge memes’ and read through them for a few hours. You know you’re fluent if, when interrupted by your mum/flatmate/cat telling you it’s time to eat, you reply ‘Such hungry! Many eat! Excite!’
But since this is a science blog, we’re not just going to immerse ourselves in memes. Instead, we’re going to examine the linguistics of Doge.
(By the way, for anyone who argues linguistics isn’t a science, the definition of linguistics is ‘the SCIENTIFIC study of language.’)
Doge phrases can consist of either one or two words. The single-word phrases are usually the stem of a verb, or in other words, the shortest possible form of a verb. ‘Amaze’, ‘excite’, and ‘scare’ are common examples. ‘Wow’, although not a verb, is perhaps the most common single-word phrase, appearing in almost every Doge meme.
The two-word phrases are slightly more complex. The first word is almost always one of the following:
The next word must be something that, in English, is ungrammatical: it doesn’t match with the first word. So let’s look at each word and see what matches and what doesn’t.
Much and many
Much and many are both used to describe a large quantity of things, but they are used in different scenarios. In normal English, much goes with count nouns – nouns that can form plurals. For example:
- The blog has many posts.
- There are many blogs about science.
Much goes with uncountable nouns, which do not form plurals:
- This subject requires so much communication!
- Much science is conducted by universities.
If you violate these rules, you get perfect Doge sentences: Much blog. Many communication. Wow!
So, very, and such
So and very come before an adjective (or adverb). If you put a verb or noun after it, you violate normal English and make a wonderful Doge phrase. Very science. So amaze.
In normal English, such comes before a ‘noun phrase’ – this includes not just the noun itself, but also any extra words that are needed for it to make sense. For example, ‘A scientist’ is a noun phrase, but ‘scientist’ alone is not, because while it makes sense to say ‘A scientist conducts experiments’ it is ungrammatical to say ‘Scientist conducts experiments.’ Plural nouns can also form noun phrases by themselves: ‘Scientists often work at universities.’
To make a Doge phrase using such, pair it with anything except a plural noun. Such student is good Doge-speak, but Such students is not.
Linguistics is cool!
The weird and wonderful linguistics of the Doge meme is only one example of the field’s power to describe in words what we already subconsciously knew about language. Whether we’re aware of it or not, every language adheres to its own wondrous (and often complicated) rules. It’s a linguist’s job to unearth these and make them clear to others.
If English is your second language, I hope this post hasn’t brought back traumatic memories of grammar lessons. And for everyone, I hope this post has made you feel the following about linguistics: Such fascinate. Very wonder. Wow.