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Anthropology Memes: The Funny Side of Linguistic Anthropology

The word "Meme" made out of wooden blocks
Are you interested in Linguistic Anthropology? What about memes and cartoons? Well, in the last post, I shared some Anthropology-related memes and cartoons focusing on Physical Anthropology. And, in a previous post, I shared some memes and cartoons relating to Archaeology. Now, in today’s post, I’ll be sharing some memes and cartoons relating to Linguistic Anthropology. For each meme/cartoon, I’ll be explaining things for anyone who doesn’t have an Anthropology or Linguistic background. Also, I’ll share a link with some more information in case you are interested.

#1: Words for “Lawn”

Did you know that suburban white males have over 100 words for "lawn"?
Did you know that suburban white males have over 100 words for “lawn”?

 

Why is this funny?

There is a saying in the United States that the Eskimo people have over 100 words for “snow.” (If you don’t know who the Eskimo are, they are thought of in the USA as people who live in the frozen arctic in snow igloos and wear fur-covered parkas, like in the cartoon.) This cartoon plays off of that idea by having an Eskimo saying that suburban white males [presumably in the USA] have over 100 words for “lawn.” This is because many suburban white males in the USA are passionate about their lawns.

Learn more

First of all, there is no one “Eskimo” language. “Eskimo” is a general word for the people who live in polar regions of the world, such as in northern areas of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. These people, known as the Inuit and Yupik people, speak several different languages.
And, things are not so simple as having lots of words for snow. These Inuit and Yupik languages are polysynthetic languages. This means these languages have roots and word endings that can be combined to form unlimited numbers of words. You can even express a whole English sentence in just one Inuit or Yupik “word.” So, counting “words” for snow is complicated.
But, this does not mean that the Inuit and Yupik people don’t have a lot of ways to express different kinds of snow. For example, the Central Siberian Yupik language has 40 words for snow, and the Kingikmiut dialect of the Inupiaq language has about 75 terms for sea ice. But this is not unusual—other languages have lots of words for things that are important in that culture. For example, the Nuer of Sudan have many words to describe cows, which are central to their economy.
To learn more, check out the Washington Post article, “There really are 50 Eskimo words for ‘snow.’”

#2: Words for “Hot Dogs”

"Interestingly, the natives of this borough have 52 words for 'hot dog.'"
“Interestingly, the natives of this borough have 52 words for ‘hot dog.'”

Why is this funny?

This cartoon is also playing off the idea from the last cartoon that the Eskimo have over 100 words for snow. But this time, a man is saying that the local natives have 52 words for “hot dog.”

Learn more

To learn more, check out The Atlantic’s article, “Mini Object Lesson: No, There Are Not 100 Eskimo Words for ‘Snow.’” This article goes more in-depth about polysynthetic languages and gives some examples.

#3: Language Determines Thought Meme

Linguistic Anthropology memes. Not sure if thought determines language or language determines thought
Not sure if thought determines language or language determines thought

Why is this funny?

There is a theory called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which is also known as the linguistic relativity hypothesis. This theory says that language affects how you think about reality. The “strong version” of this theory, called linguistic determinism, says that language determines thought. This cartoon plays off of that idea.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about the relationship between language and thought, then check out this article, “Language and Thought” from the Linguistic Society of America.

#4: A Language Hypothesis Meme

Linguistic Anthropology memes. "If your language has no word for petaQ, you have no concept of petaQ! The Sapir-Worf Hypothesis"
If your language has no word for petaQ, you have no concept of petaQ! The Sapir-Worf Hypothesis

Why is this funny?

The characters shown in this meme are from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The character in the yellow and black outfit in the foreground is named “Worf.” Worf speaks a language called “Klingon,” and the word “petaQ” is a Klingon insult meaning “weirdo.” As in the last image, this meme is playing off the idea of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, but spelling it Sapir-WORF to make reference to the Star Trek character.

Learn more

Check out this article, “How Much Does Our Language Determine Behavior?” from the Behavioral Scientist website.

#5: A New Language

"But this is fantastic, professor! It's like no language I've ever seen before!"
“But this is fantastic, professor! It’s like no language I’ve ever seen before!”

Why is this funny?

This cartoon is making fun of the way some people communicate through texting. Texting language is abbreviated language and often looks like the writing in this cartoon. So, the scientists in the cartoon think they have discovered a new language.

Learn more

So, is texting language “ruining” the English language? No! Learn more about this topic in these two articles:

#6: Hunting and Gathering

Caveman says, "What woman have?" Cave woman says, "While you were hunting, I was gathering -- parts of speech. Here, try a pronoun."
“What woman have?” “While you were hunting, I was gathering — parts of speech. Here, try a pronoun.”

Why is this funny?

In this cartoon, a “caveman” returns to his cave from a day of hunting, and the woman says she has been gathering. But instead of gathering food, she has been gathering parts of speech. This cartoon plays off the idea of “man the hunter” and “woman the gatherer,” and the evolution of language.

Learn more

Man was not always the hunter and woman was not always the gatherer. Sometimes men gather food. For example, Ju/‘Hoan men in southern Africa collected plant foods while they were hunting. And, sometimes, women hunt. For example, the Agta women of the Philippines were hunters. And, there is evidence that women hunted in the past. learn more in the Smithsonian Magazine article, “This Prehistoric Peruvian Woman Was a Big-Game Hunter.”

#7: Emojis

I think they had a teenager...
I think they had a teenager…

Why is this funny?

This cartoon is comparing (presumably Egyptian) hieroglyphs with emojis. It suggests that the people who wrote on the wall had a teenager since teenagers tend to use emojis when communicating.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about emojis? Check out this article, “Are Emojis The New Hieroglyphs? A Brief History of Emojis and Their Purpose,” from the Babbel Magazine.

#8: Back to the Same Language Meme

Linguistic Anthropology memes. "4,000 years later and we're back to the same language"
4,000 years later and we’re back to the same language

Why is this funny?

This meme is also comparing Egyptian hieroglyphs and emojis. It says that it has been 4,000 years and we are back to the same language.

Learn more

Check out the article, “Are Emojis the Same as Hieroglyphs?” from the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

#10: Do Not Touch Meme

Linguistic Anthropology memes. "Do not touch morpheme with bare hands. Risk of inflection."
Do not touch morpheme with bare hands. Risk of inflection.

Why is this funny?

A morpheme is a unit of language that has meaning and cannot be further divided into smaller units. But, morphemes are not the same as words. The word “dog” has one morpheme because it cannot be divided into something smaller. But the word “dogs” has two morphemes— “dog” and “-s” (which means “more than one”).
This meme is saying not to touch a morpheme with bare hands because there is a risk of inflection. The word “inflection” is a play on the word “infection,” as you don’t want to touch something if there is a risk of infection. In linguistics, an inflectional morpheme is something added to a word that affects things like number and tense. For example, in the word “dogs” the “-s” is an inflectional morpheme that makes the noun plural.

Learn More

To learn more about morphemes and inflection, check out the article, “Meaning and Examples of Inflectional Morphemes,” from ThoughtCo.

Did You Enjoy these Linguistic Anthropology Memes & Cartoons?

I hope you enjoyed viewing these memes and cartoons related to Linguistic Anthropology! To learn more about Linguistic Anthropology, just click on the category in the menu on the right-hand side. To view more Anthropology-related memes and cartoons, just click on “memes” in the Tags menu.
Thanks for reading!