Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

The Meme-ome

There. That banal neologism has been rattling around in my cranium for a few days like errant bb shot, and I needed to get it out there. Sometimes, a loathsome word must be purged from the brain before it causes too much damage.

“Meme,” which makes me cringe when I read it let alone write it, is the most overused word in the blogosphere (also a shudderworthy term). Just say it: “Meme.” It can only be spoken with a nerdsome whine.

Everyone and her/his cat and dog are tacking -ome on to words:

“Genome. Metabolome. Kinome. Lipidome. Transcriptome.”

Harlan Pepper, would you stop naming -omes!?”

RPM over at evolgen brought up the secretome, and correcly noted that “-ome” can be attached to darn near any biological system to give it hype. The natural consequence of my reading this last week and the “Speed of Meme” hot topics on the Science Blogs mainframe page was the unholy convergence of “The Meme-ome.”

Scott Douglas, a freelance writer with a number of running-focused books and articles to his credit, maintains a list of Forbidden Words. Scott has been lax in updating his list of overused phrases and words, but here it is:

  • 9/11
  • Push back
  • Activist judges
  • Skill set
  • At the end of the day
  • Take it to the next level
  • Don’t go there
  • The American people
  • Footprint
  • The so-called nuclear option
  • Functionality
  • Think outside the box
  • Leverage
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • On the same page
  • Win-win
  • Proactive
  • Zero tolerance
  • I would like to submit “meme” and “-ome” or “-omics” for Scott’s list.

    Comments

    1. #1 Suesquatch
      November 30, 2006

      I also suggest “to impact.” To me, “impacted” means incredibly constipated.

    2. #2 double-soup tuesday
      November 30, 2006

      Forbidding these words seems arbitrarily authoritarian. Can you offer suggestions of alternatives that would be acceptable?

      For example, 9/11 conveys a specific traumatic event and four characters that elicits a thousand images. The alternative to this shorthand may be a 300 word flurry that is sometime seen on these pages.

      From a mental health perspective, I often worry that reading needlessly voluminous content may be slowly demyelinating neurons by carelessly shoving coagulating Styrofoam without regard for necessary cleanup. What if I forget the kid’s birthday, because Beck waxed on excessively about Kerwin and Kerwin has gelled? These people that manufacture Styrofoam never seem to worry about the social consequences. Sure, I can not read them, but unless I read them, I don’t know if it’s any good or not. It’s similar to the conundrum of unshitting the bed.

      In any case, meme itself seems to be a fairly functional shorthand that was foisted on us by none other than the revered Dawkins himself. ScienceBlogs seems to the hot little petri dish of activity that illustrates the meme contagion transmission mechanism exceedingly well.

    3. #3 Julie Stahlhut
      November 30, 2006

      Is meme-omics a meme or an -omics? :-)

    4. #4 Mondo
      November 30, 2006

      “For example, 9/11 conveys a specific traumatic event and four characters that elicits a thousand images.”

      double-soup, the fact you think this is a good thing means the point of the list is lost on you.

      :/

    5. #5 Doc Bushwell
      December 1, 2006

      Re: the list of Forbidden Words. the need to explain someone else’s tongue-in-cheek natterings is a tad frustrating. Doublesoup, you might ask Mr. Douglas about the, ummm, self-consciously arbitrarily authoritarian list. Mondo & Sue “got” it.

      Julie…it’s an unholy hydrid! A meme and an -ome. Ugh. Btw, I love your blog.

    6. #6 double-soup tuesday
      December 1, 2006

      double-soup, the fact you think this is a good thing means the point of the list is lost on you.

      Fair enough; sometime I’m slow on the uptake.

      Forbidden Words. the need to explain someone else’s tongue-in-cheek natterings is a tad frustrating.

      I’ll put it in the column of annoyances then. Although they seem to be examples of what passes for educated terseness.

      Just a few years back, those phrases were so attractive because of their terse novelty that the educated nattering class everywhere picked them up and passed them among, toot sweet. As rabble populists start mainstreaming the phraseology and ideas, the cool kids go on to invent new phrases and memes to recognize their kind in real time and distinguish from the uneducated pop culture. A language and cultural differential must be maintained, else we all become just the rabble.

      My misunderstanding of this leads me to think that what’s valued in the ecosystem are the meme progenitors, not the carriers (although without the carriers, the memes would die rapidly). Still, as usual, it’s the singular, original creativity that counts most.

    7. #7 Wilson
      December 1, 2006

      I remember Douglas’ words list and to piss him off I used them all in a single paragraph. He never responded to anything I said after that–not that we communicated much before that. Like his books though.

    The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.