For the last few months, online regulars have been seeing on various Web sites and blogs pictures of cats and other animals in strange poses, with large type captions embedded in the photos. The grammar and syntax in the captions are atrocious by design. The pictures are called LOLcats, named after the abbreviation for “laughing out loud” used by fans of text and instant messaging.
The origin of LOLcats is murky at best. From what I can tell based on various blog posts — the most authoritative at LinguisticMystic.com, written by a Colorado linguistics student — they may have evolved from a practice called Caturday, in which cat lovers posted photos of their felines with funny captions on Saturdays.
The cat-photo fad then merged with some other geek jokes. The mangled spelling associated with texting and gaming known as leetspeak — teh for the, ur for your, hai for hi, 1337 for “leet” or elite, and so on — became part of the gag.
A line used in online strategy games such as Starcraft became a common meme. While one player is off building and acquiring supplies and weapons for a battle, his opponent sneaks into his headquarters and starts killing his virtual minions. The perpetrator gleefully declares, “I’m in ur base, killin ur d00dz.”
Now there are dozens of pictures of cats on the Web with captions that take the form, “Im in ur X, Y-ing ur Z.” So, a picture of a cat lying on its back in front of a window has the caption, “I’m in ur windoze, flashing ur nayberz.” A menacing-looking group of cats approaching the camera has a caption that reads, “In ur yardz, starten a gang.”