When I started at Google about ten years ago I was surprised to learn
that image macros ("memes") were very popular internally. There was a
page for creating, sharing, voting on, and discussing them, "Memegen"
, and it was rare for someone to give a presentation without
including some. My initial reaction was pretty negative: my earlier
exposure to memes has been low-quality jokes in places where they
tended to crowd out better discussion. In this context, however, they
weren't actually crowding other things out, and instead Memegen's
listing for highly-upvoted memes provided one of the best overviews of
Memes often make heavy use of shared context. Initially this was
broader culture, but well-known previous memes feed back into cultural
references available to draw on, and you get the beginnings of a
language. For example, an image of a guy with an ugly
brown cap became a standard way of talking about a particular kind
of selfish or unreliable behavior. Each meme using that image
reinforces and expands the association, increasing how much you can
communicate by using it as the background for another meme. The hat
is recognizable enough on its own that people will draw on those
associations by pasting the hat in other contexts.
With tens of thousands of people creating and sharing Google-internal
memes for over a decade, the internal associations from past memes
diverged from external ones. Not entirely, since people weren't cut
off from the outside world, but in a way much like a dialect. As
someone who's read ~hundreds more Google-dialect memes than
general-internet ones, this is something I need to think about when I
(as I very occasionally do) make memes.
For example, remembering an old 80,000 Hours article
and thinking about the FTX collapse I put
something together for the EA memes FB group:
I selected and adapted the image of Bankman-Fried at the bottom to
resemble the "challenge
accepted" stick figure that is standard in the general internet
This felt a bit like speaking a foreign language, however, since (per
memory, can't check anymore) inside Google people would normally use
variants of this image of someone drinking beer:
Until yesterday, however, I didn't know that on the broader internet
that image has associations of burned-out
college students. I'm glad I realized this before editing a pint
into a picture of Bankman-Fried to make a meme that wouldn't have made
much sense to people who don't share my dialect!
This makes me wonder what other ways the dialect I've ended up with
differs from the general-internet one. Perhaps this could make a good
paper for a relaxed linguistic department (ex: pdf)?
 Created by my former Google Cambridge coworkers McMillen and Feinberg. Leaked in
late 2012, then described officially in How
Having spent a good amount of time on Google Memegen myself, I think what you describe would actually be a misuse of the "guy drinking beer" meme. It's supposed to be something about laziness (so an EA-flavored related meme here would be something like: "earning to give does more harm than good? better do nothing!"). It's based on the original burned-out-college-student/lazy-college-senior meme, where the punchline is supposed to be that you're happy you don't have to do some task.