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Why You Could Be in a 'Sh*tuff People Say' Meme

Feb 13 2012
The YouTube trend can help us understand what we're really saying.

Have you seen Into the Woods? The musical, written by Stephen Sondheim, opened on Broadway in 1987 and has been produced uncountable times since then. The play weaves together the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), and Rapunzel, among others. It begins with the narrator's decisive proclamation: "Once upon a time!" followed by Cinderella, Jack, and the wife of Little Red's favorite baker singing, "I wish …" as they confess their most intimate longings.

I wish I had a child.
I wish the walls were full of gold.
I wish a lot of things …

Getting lost in the woods. Being entrapped by a witch, or a wolf, or cruel stepsisters. These timeworn images are totems, calling up whole volumes of meaning. And the lines "I wish" and "once upon a time" are catchphrases we expect to hear from the likes of Cinderella and Jack. They are, to be sure,"Stuff People in Fairy Tales Say."

You've likely heard of the Internet meme with a similar name. Its origin is a Twitter feed created by Justin Halpern in 2009. Halpern, then 27 years old, was a writer who had moved home to live with his parents. His Tweets documented his father's humorous - and belligerent and lewd - observations. We feel we know this man's personality and the generation of which he is a part after reading Halpern's Tweets:

· "Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it."
· "Your mother made a batch of meatballs last night. Some are for you, but more are for me. Remember that. More. Me."
· "I hate paying bills … Son, don't say, 'Me too.' I didn't say that looking to relate to you. I said it instead of 'go away.'"

$#*! My Dad Says went, as they say, "viral." Halpern published a book that was adapted into a short-lived television series. He continues to Tweet and to date nearly three million people follow him on Twitter.

Halpern's work has spawned numerous imitations. Look on YouTube and you'll find dozens of "things people say" videos. By the way, for our purposes here, we're employing words such as "stuff" and "things" to stand in for the stronger, and more commonly used word in these videos. If you are offended by what my fourth grade daughter calls "the 's' word," you'd best not walk into the woods of YouTube to follow this trend. Also be forewarned that a number of the videos posted there are crass and humorless. Others, in my opinion, are inventive, charming, and crammed with insight. They illustrate, time and time again, that what we (repeatedly) say reveals our deepest beliefs, prejudices, and yearnings. (I wish …)

Related Topics:Internet; Technology

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Why You Could Be in a 'Sh*tuff People Say' Meme