LOLCat Comm:
Cat Macros as Communication

Culture, Pop Semiotics — By on June 11, 2008 at 12:39 am

[Note: I'm on semi-hiatus this week so original blogging will be light. I'm reposting stale old material that I hoped you missed, so that it will appear fresh and new.] 

Not long after Al Gore invented the internet, his wife Tipper uploaded a picture of the family cat launching one of the most ubiquitous trends in web culture. But over the past year, a strange subgenre called “lolcats” or “cat macros” has developed, turning a meme into a form of folk art.

As the Wikipedia entry explains, lolcats– a portmanteau of “lol” and “cat”–are photos of cats with comedic captions created for the purpose of sharing with others on imageboards and other internet forums. The caption is characteristically formatted in a sans serif font such as Impact or Arial Black, usually in white letters with a black outline. (In fact, this type of lettering has come to define the genre, so much so that the use of other fonts and colors seem like a violation of an unwritten aesthetic code.) The caption is intentionally written with deviations from standard English spelling and syntax featuring strangely-conjugated verbs. Despite the odd construction, the syntax has, as Anil Dash notes in a post on the topic, a “fairly consistent grammar.”

The cats not only speak in a form of pidgin English (which makes the captions funnier) but they also tend to use “leetspeek”, a written form of slang used primarily on the internet and online video games. David McRaney explains how this peculiar brand of folk art works as communication:

[A] fusion of sorts between learned, direct language and rapid, practical digital missives takes place with Leetspeak and macros. Both relay a great deal of information in a small burst of code. Each depends on the receiver of the information having working knowledge of the culture and its references. In a sense, these serve as argots, and help identify both sides of the information transfer as belonging to the subculture where they appear. The in-joke is part of the communication. The separation of ingroup and outgroup helps drive the rapid evolution of both leetspeak and macros.

The appeal of cat macros is that they can be enjoyed as folk art, even by those who are in the “outgroup.” Listed below are a few of the various sub-genres:

Invisible objects

Variations on the gamer meme “I’m in ur…”

Expressing a desire not to be eaten

Confessions of what they have eaten

Variation on “I has..”

Character cats

Explanations of their behavior

Various non sequiters

More cat macros can be found in the following galleries (Caution: some images contain crude language):

See also:

Other posts in this series:



  • ucfengr

    I’m on semi-hiatus this week so original blogging will be light.
    Good on ya, Joe. One of the reasons I don’t start a blog is because I would feel compelled to post everyday (another is I would probably be the only one to read it). It’s good that you can step away for a time.

  • http://morphed2fly.blogspot.com/ Nancy

    My cat, Callie is part of my blogging team. While it is true that she could be characterized as a “scaredy cat”, she can actually spell at least as well as if not better than me, or is that I, maybe I should ask Callie.

  • http://morphed2fly.blogspot.com/ Nancy

    “Not long after Al Gore invented the internet, his wife Tipper uploaded…”
    BTW…thank you for backing up my claims on Mr. Gore…I’ve been taking a lot of heat for this lately!

  • gy

    “I’ve been taking a lot of heat for this lately!” Ya, for good reason you have. Joe’s comment about Gore is not only wrong, it betrays a lot about his opinions (snarky, and ill informed.)

  • Jay D

    aaaaawwwwwwww………

  • http://shatteredparadigm.blogspot.com Mikael

    So many people in this country are utterly confused about so many things.
    Most Americans don’t even know that presidential Barack Obama carries a small idol of the Hindu God “Hanuman” with him for good luck. A picture of Obama displaying this idol and his other good luck charms has been found.
    Here is the link to this incredible photo:
    http://shatteredparadigm.blogspot.com/2008/06/picture-of-hindu-god-that-barack-obama.html

  • http://mpowerroanoke.org/?page_id=363 lula
  • http://www.xboard.us/showthread.php?t=269652 intoditynC

    Thanks !

  • concerned

    please please please
    remember the teachings of the lord and wake up it is the right of all humans to live freely and excercise will. you at this sight are all mostly brainwashed and that is not your will but the will of the minister wolves and hateful politicians that pray on your weak souls wake up wake up wake up.

  • http://www.mixx.com/users/Forced_Rape_Videos lattoonainvarp

    thanks much, dude