Have you ever seen a random block of text online that made absolutely no sense? It may have been a copypasta: a unique type of internet meme. Let’s take a look at where this tasty-sounding term originates and an example of what one looks like.
A Text-Based Meme
When most people think of memes, they think of images, GIFs, or short videos. Memes are instantly recognizable online, with pictures and voice clips that creep into mainstream pop culture. However, aside from images and videos, memes can also take the form of text blocks, which are known as “copypastas.”
Copypastas are named after the act of copying and pasting text. People on the internet share these text-based memes by copying and pasting them all over the web, unlike images and videos, which must be uploaded separately. Similar to memes, copypastas are funny, contain a specific reference to something on the internet, and you can edit them to fit various scenarios.
Like image and video memes, copypastas can take on a variety of forms
- Single-line sentences, roughly the length of a tweet
- Extremely long chunks of disruptive, potentially spammy text
- Long fictional stories with surprise endings
- ASCII art, a graphical format that uses text characters to create images
- Funny tweets and social media posts taken out of their original context
Individual copypastas can come from nearly anywhere. Some of the biggest copypastas are Greentexts: short, personal stories from the image forum 4Chan. While copypastas originate from a specific community, such as a Twitter fandom, 4Chan, or a subreddit, they tend to spread far beyond the reaches of that group.
Copypastas and Snowclones
One of the most significant subsets of copypastas are “snowclones,” also called phrasal templates. These are essentially the modern internet version of mad-libs, with names, places, and objects that are easy to replace based on the context.
The biggest factor behind the “memeability” of a copypasta is how easy it is to edit based on the context, similar to image meme templates. A copypasta is even easier to adapt than image macros in many ways. Instead of going into an image editor and adding captions or editing faces, all you have to do to edit a copypasta is change some words around.
Reddit is especially popular for snowclones because most discussion is centered around text posts. These make the platform ripe for derivations of the same phrases.
He Boomed Me: A Case Study
The NBA subreddit r/nba is one of the biggest producers of snowclones, such as the “He boomed me” meme. This particular copypasta comes from a tweet by NBA reporter Ben Rohrbach after a 2018 Conference Finals game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. He says he overheard Lebron James rant about Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, saying that Tatum “boomed him” — referring to a play where Tatum dunked over James.
Overheard in Cavs locker room after Game 7:
“He got me,” LeBron said of Tatum’s dunk over him. “That f***ing Tatum boomed me.”
LeBron added, “He’s so good,” repeating it four times.
LeBron then said he wanted to add Tatum to the list of players he works out with this summer. https://t.co/uJhCSPCEok
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) June 28, 2018
After the tweet, user u/FeversMirrors made a thread on r/nba with over 11,000 upvotes. In the thread, user u/Falconpwn6 posted, “I can already tell this is gonna be a copypasta.” It became one of the biggest memes on the NBA subreddit, partly because it was easy to modify.
People have replaced various parts of the tweet in random threads on Reddit, both in and out of the NBA subreddit. For example, if you want to describe how you got beaten in an online player vs. player game, you might post:
“He got me,” I said of SephirothX’s play over me. “That f***ing SephirothX boomed me.”
I added, “He’s so good,” repeating it four times.
You might be having trouble visualizing what exactly a copypasta looks like. So here are a few of the most famous copypastas on the internet that you’ve likely come across at least once, either in their original format or as an edited snowclone.
One of the biggest copypastas online is “This is so sad, Alexa play Despacito.” It refers to a humorous fictional conversation between a user and their digital assistant. This copypasta was started on Tumblr and later spread to the rest of the internet. Users often replace “Despacito” with a relevant song to the current conversation. For example, in a Pokemon-themed forum, someone might post, “This is so sad, Alexa play Gotta catch ’em all.”
Another variant is creepypastas, short horror stories fueled by internet folklore. Perhaps the most famous creepypasta is Slenderman, a spooky tale of an unusually tall man in a suit. The Slenderman story inspired spin-offs, a hit video game series, and a movie.
Ultimately, there’s no actual guideline for what constitutes a copypasta. These are essentially inside jokes on a massive scale — people in the know will find them funny, while those who are unaware may consider them incomprehensible and annoying. If you’re looking to learn more about the world of memes, check out our explainers on what memes are and how they originated.