Translating Teen Speak: Meme

I have hit the age when I need to ask my teenagers to explain their vocabulary. I hate that I have hit this age. However, being a lover of words and an appreciator of adolescent wit and humor, I go ahead and ask my teens to translate their language and stoically endure the laughter and eye rolls that ensue.

One word that has caused confusion lately is “meme” (rhymes with beam). Being somewhat Internet savvy, I knew that a meme was a picture/pictures with a theme attached to it that circulates on the Internet. But it seems that’s not the whole story; my kids use the term in other ways.  In the past few months, we’ve heard these phrases in our family:

  • Upon receiving good news from me, eldest son texts: “That’s a nice meme.”
  • When husband walked around on the beach with his jacket hood pulled up, daughter said, “Stop it Dad, you look like the Hooded Kermit Meme.”
  • And during a road trip, apparently my daughter was “turned into a meme.”

Does any of this make sense to you? Let the Word Nerd Explain. Apparently, the word “Meme” has become enough of a phenomenon that Merriam-Webster now features it in its online dictionary. It was a word of the day last week.

Meme \’mēm\ from the Greek mim meaning to mime or mimic

  • an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture
  • an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media

Are you familiar with Grumpy Cat? That’s a meme.

The British scientist Richard Dawkins first coined this word way back in 1975 to describe a “unit of cultural transmission”. He wanted a single syllable word that sounded like gene. Dawkins wrote:

Memes (discrete units of knowledge, gossip, jokes and so on) are to culture what genes are to life. Just as biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest genes in the gene pool, cultural evolution may be driven by the most successful memes. — Richard Dawkins

Thank you Merriam-Webster and  Now, we can use this information to translate the phrases above.

  • My son’s response of “nice meme”: basically, it’s a compliment.
  • The Hooded Kermit Meme: a series of pictures of Kermit the Frog facing his evil Doppleganger dressed up like a Sith Lord. The pictures usually feature captions with a me/ also me theme, like “Me: I should study Also Me: But sleeping is a good option too.” The image originally appeared in the 2014 movie Muppet’s Most Wanted, but 19-year-old Anya Sudarkina used it to go along with a Tweet about the secret urge to steal cute dogs. The Tweet went viral, and Kermit and his evil twin have become very popular. Apparently, the meme appeals to the struggle between good and evil inside all of us.
  • My daughter got turned into a meme because her friends edited pictures of her and added humorous comments about her dietary preferences. (She’s a vegan.) They shared these pictures, or memes, in group chats.
My hooded Kermit meme, compliments of meme generator

Word Nerd Workout

Are you familiar with memes? Got any funny ones to share? How about other fun teen terms?

Don’t forget to visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for the WWW meme!

If you love learning about new words, visit Kathy’s blog for Wondrous Words Wednesday, which is also considered a meme!  Bloggers share new words they’ve learned or fun ones they love.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!









Vocab from a Cafe: Bibble


Photo Credit: Tony Webster via Flickr CC-BY

Last week while we were on vacation in the glorious Adirondack mountains of New York, my friend wore a t-shirt from a NYC cafe called “Bibble and Sip”. Besides having fun repeating the word “bibble”, I wondered what it meant. My friend’s daughters, who bought him the shirt, immediately shared the meaning of bibble and all the awesome pastries they tried at the cafe. They also mentioned something about alpacas…

Word Nerd Word

Bibble, verb from Middle English bibben, either from Latin bibō (“I drink”), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₃-, or of imitative origin.

  • To eat and/or drink noisily
  • To tipple.


Bibble from Yiddish

  • To worry

Clearly, the cafe is going for the first definition.  There are definitely a few children in my house who bibble at the dinner table! What a fun word. On the Bibble and Sip website, visitors are encouraged to “BS All You Want”. Check out the website and menu to see some delicious looking desserts and pastries as well as lots of alpacas. Not sure why alpacas are such a big deal there.

Thanks to the Klingenettes for the Word Nerd inspiration and Your Dictionary for the help with word etymology.

Word Nerd Workout

Can you share a fun name of a restaurant you’ve visited on your summer adventures? Someday I hope to get to Bibble and Sip.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!







Vacation Reading Ideas

Preparing six people for an eight-day vacation is no small task.  There is laundry to wash, sunscreen to gather, and pet care to arrange.  But in the pre-departure hustle, I cannot forget to pack the most important items: books!

My book club will meet in July to discuss the highly recommended The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, so I’ll be taking that with me to the lake. Unfortunately, I haven’t even cracked open the cover yet; non-fiction does not excite me.  I’m the only person I know who did not like Unbroken and who, *gasp*, did not finish it.  This is why my book club helps me- if it weren’t for those ladies, I’d never break outside of my reading comfort zone.

So, the “magical account of the Wright brothers’ early adventures” will go in my suitcase, but I’m arming myself with back-ups, just in case. The Wright Brothers cover copy promises that it’s “concise, exciting, and fact-packed”, but I’m doubtful.

My “fun” vacation titles include:

The Vacationers by Emma Straub.  I saw this at Target and picked it up because it is the same color as Where’d You Go Bernadette (one of my all-time favorites) and has people swimming on the cover.  The blurb on the back says it offers all the delight of a “read it with sunglasses on the beach read, made substantial by the exceptional wit, insight, and intelligence of the author.”

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.   Ms. Moriarty’s books usually offer an appealing blend of humor, mystery, and insight, so I figure I can’t go wrong here.  I usually listen to her novels on Audible; I will miss the Australian accent of the reader.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold.  A blogging buddy recommended this YA novel a long time ago for its voice.  I’ve just finished two YA novels, Ultimatum and Trampoline, so I feel a bit guilty indulging in another, but hey, this is the genre I write, so I should “study up”, correct?

When I finally finish these books (that will surely not happen in a week; please be patient), I will of course share reviews of them with you.

Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think?  Can you suggest any other books good for beach reading?

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!







The Debate Between Who & Whom

When a grammar issue causes a kerfluffle among Twitter users, this Word Nerd pays attention. Let’s see if you find a problem with this phrase commonly seen on Twitter:

Twitter who to follow
Have you seen this when you’re on Twitter?

Twitter (as well as Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms) often suggests users to follow, but sadly, the social media giant is promoting bad grammar. If Twitter wanted to stick to proper grammar, it would give you suggestions for “Whom To Follow”. Here’s why.

When to Use Who vs. Whom


When the word is the subject of the sentence, who should be used. For example

  • Who is going to the party?
  • Who wants some pizza?


When the word is the object of a preposition or a verb, whom should be used, for example:

  • With whom are you riding to the party? (whom is the object of the preposition with)
  • For whom the bell tolls (whom is the object of the preposition for)

If you’re not sure, you can use a substitution test similar to the one I recommended in my post on when to use I vs Me. Try substituting the pronoun he or him in the sentence and see which one makes the most sense. If he sounds right (he is a subjective pronoun) use who. If him sounds right (him is an objective pronoun) use whom. (They both have “m”s!)

For example, if you’re wondering about the right way to say Who is this cupcake for?, flip the question into a sentence and sub in either he or him.

  • The cupcake is for he vs. The cupcake is for him.

Which sounds better? The second one, using him, because him is the object of the preposition “for”. So the correct form of the question is Whom is this cupcake for?

The Battle between “Whoms and Whos”

Should Twitter suggest “Whom to follow” instead? Most people think that sounds stilted and old-fashioned, which is why “Who to follow” remains. After all, the Internet isn’t known for sticking to rules of grammar, spelling, or punctuation, LOL. 😉  Perhaps “whom” may eventually fall in company with “thou”, which we mostly see these days in the King James Bible or Renaissance texts.

However, die-hard grammar lovers are fighting to save “Whom”. Thomas Steiner, a systems engineer at Google, created a browser plug-in that automatically corrects who to whom when appropriate. And British scriptwriter James T. Harding runs a Facebook group called the “Whom Appreciation Society”.  They think Twitter should stick to proper usage.

Me? I’m embarrassed to admit that I never had a problem with Twitter’s “Who to Follow” until I read the WSJ article “The Bell Tolls for Whom” that inspired this post. I suspect “Whom to follow” would seem too snobby and formal for most users. And the Ghostbuster’s Theme song would sound awfully strange if they changed the lyrics to “Whom you gonna call?”

That said, I worry about the influence of the casual language on the Internet and in text messages. Will spelling and grammar become less important as everyone grows more accustomed to “Internet speak”? I’m afraid so. I think it’s critical to know proper usage, even if exceptions sound better in certain cases. And we should always strive for correct grammar in formal situations, like letters, emails, papers, and articles. Yes, I said emails. Maybe not the ones to your dad, but definitely the ones to your boss, coworkers, or clients.

Word Nerd Workout

Which word should you use in the following sentence, who or whom?

I was very upset to learn that my Aunt June, who/whom I loved dearly, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

For a more detailed explanation of when to use who or whom, visit my post When to Use Who vs. Whom .

Where do you stand on the whom/who debate? Should Twitter stick to proper grammar? Or are you willing to throw grammar rules out the window for what sounds better?

Thanks for getting nerdy with me.







Vocab from the Headlines: Contemporaneous

James Comey by Mike Licht via Flickr

Photo credit:  Mike Licht via Flickr CC-BY

Last week, as I listened to news reports about former FBI Director James Comey’s Congressional hearings, I heard journalists refer to the “contemporaneous notes” Mr. Comey kept about his meetings with President Trump. The word sounded familiar, but I didn’t exactly know what it meant. I should have – when you break it down to its Latin roots, it makes sense.

Contemporaneous \kən-ˌtem-pə-ˈrā-nē-əs\ adjective from Latin contemporaneus, from com– together + tempor-, tempus time

  • existing, occurring, or originating during the same time; usually used in reference to events

For example,
Contemporaneous reports confirmed that the shooter was in the school building.

I guess the journalists reporting on Comey’s notes believed that he wrote them very close in time to his meetings with President Trump. Read more at Merriam-Webster.

Word Nerd Workout

Can you think of a synonym for contemporaneous? My suggestion: simultaneous.

If you like learning about words, visit Kathy’s blog at Bermuda Onion for Wondrous Words Wednesday.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!








Why You Should Read Ultimatum


Sometimes, it’s hard to understand our family members. Sometimes, they don’t get us either. Ultimatum, a YA novel by K.M. Walton, tells the story of two brothers who can’t relate to each other but must learn how as they face the death of their alcoholic father.


Oscar loves drawing and classical music. His mother was the only one in his family who understood him, but she died tragically in a car accident years ago. Oscar’s older brother Vance loves lacrosse and girls and got along great with their dad, who liked to party and listen to reggae music. However, after their mother’s death, Oscar and Vance watched helplessly as their father sank further and further into a trap of depression and alcoholism.  As their father dies from liver failure, they have no idea what do next or what to say to each other.

What I liked

I won a signed copy of Ultimatum from Jessica Lawson at her blog Falling Leaflets. (Jessica often gives away copies of excellent kid lit books on her site; check it out.) I like to write realistic fiction with components of family conflict, and Ultimatum was an excellent novel to study.

For starters, Walton does a fabulous job of describing emotion in raw, fresh language. When Oscar’s brother yells at him for sketching their dying father, Oscar thinks

“If I respond, I may crack and leak and puddle. If I don’t respond, he may lose his mind. My hands sweat. The walls suddenly crowd me. I want to run away.”

Walton uses wonderful metaphors to convey feeling. For example, as Oscar realizes he may never get to talk with his dad again, he thinks

“I’ll never be able to ask him these questions. That reality is incredibly jagged. The cut will never be clean; it will never heal properly.
There will always be a scar.”

Walton alternates first person POV between Vance and Oscar, giving readers insight into each boy’s personality and the complicated family history they share. This close perspective into the mind of each brother makes each one easier to sympathize with and adds intensity to the conflict.

The story switches between present time in a hospice room and flashbacks to important events in the lives of the boys. Overall, the tone is sad, but the novel ends hopefully. Most importantly, the emotions felt real and relatable. I watched my mother die when I was 25, and Walton does a great job of depicting the fear, grief, and anxiety felt by a young adult when a parent dies.

What I didn’t like

Not much. At first, it didn’t seem like the characters have an obvious goal that they are working toward; more often they just seem to react to the crises enfolding in front of them. Yet by the end of Ultimatum, it’s obvious that the goal is for them to learn how to love each other so that they can survive without their parents. And even though I couldn’t always sense “a goal”, I wanted to keep reading and turning the pages, just because the emotional journey for each character was compelling.


Ultimatum was a satisfying read, even though it was a little sad. If you like YA novels with family drama, such as Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever or See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles, you’ll probably like Ultimatum.

Notes on content

UltimatumThe boys’ father is an alcoholic, so there are several references to drinking and smoking pot. However, the consequences of substance abuse are also clearly described. There is a bit of bad language.

Have you read Ultimatum? What did you think? Can you share some other examples of YA with family drama?

Happy reading!