Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Ridiculous

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Yesterday I proposed something ridiculous. A neologism around the idea that we shouldn’t call meme to what is, in reality, a Biphufo: big-picture-with-huge-font. What surprised me was the reaction of my kids to this – apparently – ridiculous idea.

“That’s a meme.” – said my son David.

“No. It’s a Biphufo.” – Explaining the origin of the word.

“I don’t care. It’s still a meme.”

I felt naive and realized this idea about what is a meme became culture, and it even entered the dictionary to a point where the same word has two completely different meanings.

Above all, I think this shows the power of the internet for changing our language and, consequently, our culture. This makes me a bit uncomfortable because words come to life through meaning. Something beautifully explored in the recent movie about Tolkien.

But if we keep adding meanings to a word, soon we run the risk of turning our communication into a Babel’s tower where we fail to understand each other deeply. Or, risk becoming too superficial in our communication. The price is a shallow connection, and I don’t know what kind of culture this generates.

We write less when we use biphufos, GIFs, and emojis in our messages. People say it is a way to express feelings, but when we read Oscar Wilde saying,

The curves of your lips rewrite history.

I wonder – “what if he used 💋 instead?”

I fear we may be losing the creative and transformative power of the word to small shallow images which limit our imagination to express ourselves.

Rediscover the power of using words even if it takes time to write and read. It will help humanity slow the pace and build a more in-depth narrative.

Do you miss playing with words instead of emojis?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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