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Blame it on PewDiePie.
The humble Doge meme, based on pictures of a cute Shiba Inu dog, was all the rage in 2013. The meme’s quirky use of English syntax was such powerful and much creative, and for a year or so, it had everyone saying “wow!” Since then, Doge hasn’t been in the spotlight, but it’s a meme people continue to use. And now, five years after the cute dog took the internet by very surprise, a new generation of mutant Doge memes has emerged.
This is what an old-school Doge meme looked like:
The joke was just a description of the dog in the photo, jazzed up with intentional misspellings and idiosyncratic word choices. Instead of saying “He’s a plant,” for example, we get “so plent.” This was funny at first, but you can see how Doge-speak would wear thin after a year of constant repetition.
The thing is, Doge never really went away—it just evolved and existed as a low-key presence on Tumblr. And now, sufficient time has passed that Doge is back in fashion, but in warped, ironic, and heavily Photoshopped ways no one expected.
In January of this year, Google Trends registered a spike in searches for “Doge,” which had been practically flat since 2014.
In early March, a poster on Reddit’s “out of the loop” subreddit asked, “Where are all these new doge memes coming from?” To illustrate his point, he included a gallery of 50 very weird memes starring the Shiba Inu.
In these pics, the original Doge has been warped and melted into terrifying new shapes using Photoshop’s liquify tool. Once, the dog was cute. Now we have “le spider”:
and “le Minecraft,” a blocky Doge in the shape of a Minecraft avatar:
And le toucan, le dragon, le rhino, and on and on:
Gratuitous use of the French “le” is an internet culture relic older than Doge itself. It dates back to 2003, and featured prominently in the oughties trend of “rage comics” memes, which were especially popular on Reddit. Like bringing back Doge, we can presume that bringing back “le” is meant to be ironic.
But, circling back to our “out of the loop” Redditor’s question: Where did these weird, re-shaped “le doge” memes come from?
Like many of this year’s big memes, they seem to have blown up due to fans of PewDiePie, the controversial gamer who was once the most-subscribed person on YouTube. PewDiePie hosts a video series called “LWIAY, pronounced “l’why” and short for “last week I asked you.” In these videos, he shows off the memes fans have shared on his r/pewdiepiesubmissions subreddit.
In March, they submitted a LOT of le doge. Here’s PewDiePie laughing at one that references his show’s title: “le wiay has arrived.”
On March 20, PewDiePie discussed the liquified Doge memes in one of his infamous Meme Review videos, the same videos that propelled Ugandan Knuckles and Somebody Toucha My Spaghet to ultra-viral status earlier this year.
The difference so far is that the liquefied “le doge” memes haven’t spread much beyond of PewDiePie’s huge fan base or the gaming community at large. It’s not entirely clear who made the first one or where PewDiePie even found them, but every meme he’s made a video about has turned into a big deal, and le doge probably won’t be an exception.
It just goes to show that even though Doge has been considered a stale, old meme for years, it still hasn’t faded from our collective memory. The original Doge, a 12-year-old female Shiba Inu named Kabosu, was the victim of an April Fool’s death hoax last year, and the many people who fell for it mourned her passing. Her owner quickly debunked the prank report, but it proved for a moment that we would all miss Doge if she were gone.
If there was a lifetime achievement award for memes, Doge would certainly deserve it. So longevity, very fame. Wow.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.