I have been tagged. Needless to say, this is not because I am lying on a slab of granite in the industrial concrete surroundings of a freezing cold mortuary, with a piece of yellowing card attached to my big toe and a frowning pathologist leaning over my corpse to examine the contents of my stomach — thereby deducing that I ate toast and Marmite a few short hours before I was brutally beaten to death in a frenzied attack with a breezeblock. No, not that. Not that at all. This means that he accompanying picture is nothing more than a tasteless and probably highly offensive joke, for which I apologise unreservedly. Well, almost unreservedly.
So, yes, to elaborate further, I have been tagged by Jess, who maintains a rather splendid mental milkcrate, and whose silver bottle tops I have been avidly collecting for many years. One day, when I have enough of the said items, I shall exchange them for cash and send Jess a pony in the mail. The pony will be small and cute and eminently useful for the transportation of lightweight groceries from the supermarket. Or maybe I am harbouring too many lingering childhood memories of charity appeals on Blue Peter.
Now, as a rule, I don’t do memes, not least because the word itself is so exceptionally infuriating. The Germans have always had it so much easier. They get a word like — oh, I don’t know, let’s pluck a random one from the Wörterbüch — ‘Eigentumswohnungshaftpflichtversicherung’, and they pronounce every single letter and syllable in full. Without even pausing for breath. That’s Teutonic efficiency for you. Yes, it’s true that to say it out loud requires a hefty mouthful of saliva and a particularly agile tongue (stop it, you filthy-minded people), but at least it makes sense in linguistic terms. The word ‘meme’, however, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s pronounced ‘meem’, for heaven’s sake, which is just wrong in so many ways.
To digress still further — please stay awake at the back, because I’ll get to the point eventually — I have always been of the opinion that the word ‘meme’ should in fact be spoken far slower and more deliberately as ‘Me Me’. Not only is this interpretation reassuringly self-centred, but it also inevitably makes me think of pandas.
I’ve really lost you now, haven’t I? Let me elucidate even more tangentially.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are watching the evening news and, after depressing you with stories of death, disease and destruction, the presenter’s stern face breaks into a beatific smile:
“And finally — Me Me the panda has given birth to a bouncing baby, the first cub to be born in captivity since 2003. Me Me joins the roll call of famous pandas such as Ping Ping, Chi Chi, An An, Ling Ling and Chan Chan, all of whose parents simply couldn’t be bothered to do the decent thing and make the panda with two backs on weekday afternoons when there were no camera-wielding tourists around to catch them in flagrante delicto. Me Me’s mother is reported to be doing well, but has retired to a dark corner of Chez Panda to stuff her face with bamboo, drink gin, and swear violently at her husband for putting her through all that agony. She has also vowed never to indulge in panda sex ever again, thereby contributing to the almost certain extinction of these cute, heartwarming, fluffy-wuffy animals. Aw, bless.”
Pandas. Memes. It all makes sense, if you think about it. But before you finally lose the will to live, let’s return to the real meaning of the word ‘meme’. And this meme, in particular. The meme in question. The meme you assumed you would be reading about some eight long paragraphs back. Meme. Meme. Meme. You’re saying the word over and over in your head now, aren’t you? It’s going to haunt you in your dreams, I promise you.
The rules of this meme are as follows:
1. Take the nearest book and go to page 123.
2. Go to the fifth sentence of the page.
3. Copy down the next three sentences.
4. Tag five people to pick up the meme baton.
So I did as instructed, though with an added dramatic flourish. I closed my eyes, stretched out my right hand, and groped in the dark for a book. I found the remains of a mouldy sandwich instead. I tried again. Success. My fingers alighted upon a book. Opening the hefty tome at the previously specified one hundred and twenty third page, I scanned down to the fifth sentence and discovered the following:
Oh. Oh dear.
Yes, it seems that the ugly rumours about my synonym addiction, long peddled by disreputable blog commentators, are entirely true. The lofty and frequently ridiculous descriptions contained within the excessive verbiage on this site don’t simply appear out of thin air — I really do keep a thesaurus by my side at all times. (It’s a hardback Chambers edition — a vital fact that I’m sure all you thesaurus fans out there were desperate to know.)
Having completed this task to my satisfaction — if not yours — all that remains for me to do is tag five people to complete the same meme, in the knowledge that they will undoubtedly appear far more intelligent and literary-minded than me. This is difficult, since just about every online writer I know and respect has already flicked to page 123 in their chosen book. So I’m going to aim high. Pointlessly high. Step forward, 17th century London diarist Samuel Pepys; St Paul, author of that enduringly popular Christian blog, The Pauline Epistles; Pope Benedict XVI, even if he will be utterly predictable in grabbing the Bible as his nearest volume; Mr Stephen Fry, whom I’m quite sure must have the time to complete all such requests sent to him by non-entity bloggers; and last but most definitely not least, a Big Dog. Because dogs read books too.
That is all. We now return you to your regularly scheduled obfuscatory nonsense. Please do not adjust your brain.