Lolcats are both hilarious and adorable. Even if you don’t like cats, it’s hard to deny that they provide a unique type of humour which has become extremely popular on the internet over the years. However the idea is nothing new. Since as early as 1870, British photographer ‘Harry Pointer’ produced a funny series of cat pictures with accompanying text.
Later on in the 1930s and 40s, American ‘Harry Whittier Feers’ popularised cat postcards which included the animals dressed in human clothes as well as the large text to go with it. These postcards could be seen as the early prototypes to the lolcats we see today.
It’s almost universally accepted that seeing a cat will evoke laughter from the viewer. One of the most famous lolcat pictures is the ‘Hang in There Baby’ from the 1970s.
The term ‘Lolcat’, however, was not actually used until 2006 as a domain name and it was later that same year that is was officially registered. These images of cats were doing the rounds on various web sites such as 4chan and the Something Awful forums. 4chan has a tradition, which began in the mid 2000’s, where users would post lolcats ever Saturday. Saturday then became known as Caturday.
The lolcat is just part of the general trend of internet memes which are almost as old as the internet itself. Variations to the lolcat memes have included ‘Ceiling Cat’ which can be manipulated to give the impression that the cat is watching you do certain things with a picture of a cat looking down from a hole in the ceiling.
At the opposite end of the scale is ‘Basement Cat’ who lives as you would expect in the basement and is supposed to signify an evil feline. There is also ‘Breaded Cat’ which is a pun on the term ‘inbred’. This is usually represented by a cat with its head framed in a slice of bread. The Cliche Kitty was another popular meme which was also known as the ‘Everytime You Masturbate, God Kills a Kitten’ kitten. Of course it’s doubtful whether people actually love cats enough to refrain from this particular pastime.
A particularly interesting aspect of the evolution of the modern lolcat is the strange language that has developed over the years for captioning the cats. Most words are spelt differently to their standard English spellings, so ‘hi’ becomes ‘hai’, ‘is’ becomes ‘iz’, ‘has’ becomes ‘haz’, and so on. Other ‘regular’ internet spelling mistakes are commonly inserted, such as ‘teh’ rather than ‘the’, and other kinds of internet ‘leet speak’ (mostly numbers in place of letters) are used, like ‘p0wn’ and ‘w00t’. Often, cute lolisms are included, such as ‘eated’ rather than ‘ate’. Basically, you sometimes need to have a decent understanding of internet slang in order to understand some lolcat captions at all! This aspect of lolcats has become so influential that a team of enthusiasts is even translating the entire Bible into ‘lolspeak’ (http://www.lolcatbible.com).
Nowadays there are a plethora of memes to be seen on the internet, many of which have developed from the lolcat blueprint. Lolcats have spawned many other kinds of similar lols; in fact, it’s now quite common to see ‘loldogs’ in conjunction with lolcats as well as in their own rights. A slightly different kind of captioned animal picture is the ‘advice animal’ (http://www.quickmeme.com/memes/adviceanimals/) – some of which now aren’t even animals. Each kind of advice animal has its own style, brand, tone, and expected type of caption. One example of a popular advice animal is the ‘socially awkward penguin’, a picture of a penguin caption as though the penguin has been involved in some social situation in which he’s behaved awkwardly.
The sheer plethora of memes today can be daunting to anyone who doesn’t understand them. They are colourful, crazy, baffling, and at times unsettling, but always changing and very creative. With the internet evolving so quickly, who knows what kinds of memes will develop in the future?
Author: This article was compiled by Andy Graven who works for Invisible Fence, providers of invisible pet fences.