Such Syntax, Much Meme: A Linguistic Analysis of Memes and Their Structural Syntax

Arthur's Fist

Meme Example

arthurfist

Background

The Arthur's Fist meme originated from the PBS children's program 'Arthur'. The show follows a young anthropomorphic aardvark named Arthur and his every day life at school and at home. The image depicted in the meme comes from season 4, episode 1 aired on September 6th, 1999, 'D.W.'s Library Card/Arthur's Big Hit'. In this episode, Arthur becomes enraged when his younger sister breaks his prized toy airplane and he punches her. The episode received a rare TV-Y7 rating for its portrayal of cartoon violence. In 2016, that episode and that particular scene made a resurgence on social media when Twitter user AlmostJT posted the frame of Arthur's fist clenched at his side and commented, "This is just a pic of Arthur's fist but idk how I feel that it's just so relatable. So many emotions in one fist". Other users agreed and began creating memes using the image, often ones describing relatable situations that would anger most people.

Findings

This template is a single line text, located either at the top or bottom of the image. While the syntactic structure of the text accompanying this meme varys, we discovered that the most frequently found pattern has the text beginning with the adverb 'when'. Because of this, the lines of text read more like a fragment than a sentence. The second syntactic feature of the fragment is typically both a noun and the subject of the text. The noun/subject is usually the word 'you', as the goal of this meme is to relate to viewers with a situation they have likely experienced themselves.