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    Would an Amorous Ferret Be Better?

    It was once said in another context that being in close quarters with such a volatile person was like being locked in a phone booth with an enraged ferret.

    Divorce filed on behalf of Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, quoted in the Las Vegas Sun

    Meme, the idiom of the Web. From the Greek mimema, meaning “something imitated.”

    Figaro will miss Jim Gibbons, who just lost the Republican primary for governor. He dallied (or something) with a former Playboy centerfold and a cocktail waitress, then claimed he hadn’t had sex with anyone, including his wife, in decades. (That admission probably shocked Nevadans more than the centerfold and cocktail waitress.)

    Best of all, he’s responsible for the enraged ferret, an expression that has entered the zeitgeist as an Internet meme.

    A meme can be a phrase, a picture, a joke, a grammatically challenged cat, or anything else that can be imitated. Coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, the meme is the cultural version of a gene, something that spreads and replicates itself in the cultural body.

    So why does Figaro call a meme the Internet version of an idiom? Because, like an idiom, it can stand on its own, has a discrete meaning, and can get imitated. Like a barrelful of monkeys or wooden nickels, the idiom and the meme are in the same kettle of fish. The “enraged ferret” is a cat on a hot tin roof, without the cat and the roof.

    Someone has already reserved the web address. Expect LOL Ferrets to follow.

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    Reader Comments (6)

    I should add that Gibbons' lawyer, not Gibbons himself, came up with the "enraged ferret." He told a reporter that he got the analogy from an old Rolling Stone article by Hunter Thompson on Ed Muskie, then a presidential candidate. Thompson wrote that “working for Big Ed was something like being locked in a rolling boxcar with a vicious 200-pound water rat.” Shaky memory, and an active imagination, turned the rat into a ferret.
    June 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Better than a phonebooth of angry Gibbons.
    June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSantalooch
    Undoubtedly. Now, a pantsful of ferrets might be another thing. Read this story on the sport of ferret-legging. I read it to my father in law when he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and he laughed until tears streamed down his face.

    June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Bravo! What a brilliant definition of "meme". I hope such nuggets of insight will be in your next book.
    June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
    Not memes, particularly. My next book, Word Hero, will focus on figures you can use. Thanks for the kind words, though.
    June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    I suppose the only thing to say would be "They can haz new governor?"
    June 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdjr

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