Filed under The Ruth, The Whole Ruth, and Nothing But The Ruth

AN INCONVENIENT RUTH: CALL MEME, AYBE

A reintroduction to our friend An Inconvenient Ruth (AIR) who, when not serving as the media flak for Santa Claus (that’s really her job), enjoys providing us with words about words. Our latest breath of fresh AIR…


I threw a wish in the well,

Don’t ask me, I‘ll never tell

I looked to you as it fell,

And now you’re in my way

 

Meme-itation is the sincerest form of flattery. Carly Rae Jepsen recorded “Call Me Maybe” last spring and the tune immediately went viral. While Jepsen’s video has been viewed nearly 250 million times, the inspired mashup done by the Harvard baseball team has been viewed more than 16 million times (more people have seen the Crimson lip-synch in a van than will ever see them on a diamond). Numerous parodies — not of Jepsen’s video, but of Harvard’s interpretation of Jepsen’s video — followed. Even the U.S. Olympic swim team performed one, which has been viewed more than eight million times.

We’ve become a full-fledged nation of memeickers. (A Ruthemism).

 If you’re wondering when and where the word meme came from, it’s only been in play for 36 years, as coined by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” (1976). Dawkins describes meme as “an evolutionary way to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena.” Yet while Dawkins can take credit for coining the term, the concept of mimicking has truly been around since the beginning of mankind. We prefer to think that the ancient Greeks had a lot to do with it.

Meme was aptly derived from mmema, or “something imitated”, from the ancient Greek.

 The Grecian goddess Mnemosyne was the personification of memory. As legend had it, Mnemosyne slept with Zeus for nine consecutive nights before conceiving the nine Muses. (Editor’s Note: She would never have gotten pregnant if she had just used a mnemonic device). 

To this day, a muse is recognized as someone who inspires others to do their best. Muses inspire art, and art inspires memes.

 Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is possibly the most ubiquitous example. Da Vinci’s nemesis, the vibrant and youthful Michaelangelo, created David, a colossal triumph of sculpture which has since been de-memedEdvard Munch painted The Scream in 1893, unwittingly unleashing, more than a century later, a Scream meme, a bounty of meme-itations. Or how about Grant Wood’s American Gothic?

Will this appear in a meme museum?

Fast forward to today and the most viral memes have become active verbs. The internet is virtually saturated in Tebowing (see, I just Rickrolled you) and Eastwooding. And if your meme is truly worth its weight in virality, it will demand its own Twitter feed, Facebook presence and YouTube channel. Who knows? It might even become, as former (and deceased) Academy Award host Bob Hope did in the 2011 Oscars, a hologram.

Thanks for the meme-ories.

–AIR 

 

 

AN INCONVENIENT RUTH ON…STICKINESS

 

Please welcome our friend, An Inconvenient Ruth (AIR): wife, mother, pickle ball aficionado, and — we kid you not — publicist for both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. She refers to herself professionally, and unprofessionally, as The Santa Wrangler. AIR is also a word maven and has volunteered her services to the MH editorial staff. We love volunteers, and we also love that, with her on staff, we are no longer Ruth-less.

 

When I was recently called up to become the first female contributor on Medium Happy, I was Average Glad ™. Although I knew I’d be joining a rock star cast of writers including John Walters, Bill Hubbell and the ubiquitous Oz, there were a few contractual issues standing in my way. First, the thought of attending mandatory Medium Happy staff meetings in burlesque halls was off-putting.

Then I realized that suggesting an alternate outpost could backfire, landing me in settings like The Tilted Kilt or Twin Peaks Brewery.

Proposed site of Medium Happy staff meetings

 

And while I try to stay abreast of sports, pop culture and the stock market, those aren’t exactly the topics flowing through my veins in my day job as a publicist for a wide swath of fictitious characters. (Yes, Virginia, my clients are merely figments of the imagination.)

Last, there was the small matter of the sliding pay scale. On the plus side, the editors made it clear it wasn’t about the word count. It was about what I chose to do with them. Once I realized I could contribute something of intrinsic value (without actually receiving intrinsic value in return), I knew I’d found my happy medium!

Ergo, I will attempt to define something I’m passionate about: words plucked from my daily Sub-Urban Dictionary. The kind of words that can win fiends and influence papal. This week, I’m coming straight out of the gate with a word of great complexity.

Shall we?

Sticky*

Exhibit A: Sticky Buns

 

 

‘Stickiness’ has become the Kate Upton of digital-speak gurus everywhere.  In recent weeks, I’ve participated in digital and mobile strategy sessions from Indianapolis to Boston in which the terms ‘sticky’ and ‘stickiness’ were liberally bandied about.  And while most everyone in the room nodded their heads in agreement (and others nodded off)  the neophytes among us were silently thinking the same thing:  “Is he talking about the ‘m’ that’s stuck on my keyboard?”

 Sticky Fingers brings to mind the 1971 Rolling Stones album that spawned classic tunes such as “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”. Forty-one years later, in the truest sense of the word, that album is still sticky. Yet, while a rolling stone gathers no moss (very unsticky), the Rolling Stones might just be the stickiest rock band of all time.

Brown Sugar is, after all, sticky

 

Ironically, Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck On You” never made it to No. 1 and thus, considering his track record… of records… that became No. 1 hits, is relatively unsticky.

When Robert Mitchum met his wife Dorothy, he recalled “I took one look at her and said, ‘This is it. I’ll be back for you. Stick with me kid and you’ll be farting through silk.’” While this quote may not actually help build my case, it’s worth noting that he got the babe. (And she stuck for 57 years.)

If you Google ‘sticky’, you won’t find a one-size-fits-all explanation that’s better than this one, penned by E.B. White:

Natural History

 

  The spider, dropping down from twig,

Unfolds a plan of her devising,

 A thin premeditated rig

 To use in rising.

 

 And all that journey down through space,

 In cool descent and loyal hearted,

 She spins a ladder to the place

 From where she started.

 

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do

 In spider’s web a truth discerning,

 Attach one silken thread to you

 For my returning.

 

If you fast-forward to 2012, stickiness might be less about arachnids and more about the interwebs: weaving threads that indelibly connect you to your audience through a variety of platforms and tactics so rich in content, features and organization, the user will feel compelled to stick around for quite a long time and come back often.

Since Malcolm Gladwell coined ‘The Stickiness Factor’ in “The Tipping Point” a dozen years ago, the glue has taken hold. He defined it as a unique quality that allows a phenomenon to ‘stick’ in the minds of the public and influence their behavior.  And since it’s never enough, we are constantly inventing new ways to become even stickier, from geo-fencing to sticky threads, hyperlinks and devices designed to capture the name of your dog’s favorite musician.

I have a song in mind that even Lucy the Labrador retriever will like:

 Let’s Stick Together. 

–An Inconvenient Ruth (AIR)