What is Copypasta?

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Have you ever seen a block of random 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 the origin of this tasty-sounding term and an example of what it sounds like.

A text meme

When most people think of memes, they think of pictures, GIFs, or short videos. Memes are instantly recognizable online, with images and voice clips creeping into mainstream pop culture. However, besides images and videos, memes can also take the form of blocks of text, called “copypastas”.

Copypastas are named after the act of copying and pasting text. People share these text memes by copying and pasting them all over the web, unlike images and videos, which need to be downloaded separately. Similar to memes, copypastas are fun, contain a specific reference to something on the internet, and you can modify them to suit various scenarios.

Like images and video memes, copypastas can take a variety of forms

  • Single-line sentences, roughly the length of a tweet
  • Very long chunks of disruptive and potentially spammy text
  • Long fictional stories with surprising endings
  • ASCII art, a graphics 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 almost anywhere. Some of the greatest copypastas are the Greentexts: short personal stories from the 4Chan image forum. While copypastas originate from a specific community, such as a Twitter fandom, 4Chan, or a subreddit, they tend to spread far beyond that group’s boundaries.

RELATED: What is a GIF and how do I use it?

Copypastas and Snowclones

One of the most important subsets of copypastas are “snowclones”, also known as sentence patterns. It’s basically the modern Internet version of mad-libs, with easily replaceable names, places, and objects depending on the context.

The biggest factor behind the “memability” of a copypasta is how easily it is context-edited, 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 a few words around it.

Reddit is particularly popular for snowclones because most of the discussions are centered around text messages. These make the platform ripe for derivations of the same phrases.

He propelled me: a case study

The NBA r/nba subreddit is one of the biggest producers of snowclones, like the “He boomed me” meme. This particular copypasta comes from a tweet from NBA journalist Ben Rohrbach after a 2018 Conference Finals game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. He says he heard Lebron James’ rant about Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, saying Tatum “blew him up” – referring to a room where Tatum dunked James.

After the tweet, user u/FeversMirrors created a thread on r/nba with over 11,000 upvotes. In the thread, user u/Falconpwn6 posted, “I can already tell this will be a copypasta.” It became one of the biggest memes on the NBA subreddit, in part because it was easy to edit.

People 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 were beaten in an online player versus player game, you could post:

“He got me,” I said of SephirothX playing on me. “That fucking SephirothX blew me away.”
I added, “He’s so good,” repeating it four times.

Popular copypastas

You might have a hard time visualizing what exactly a copypasta looks like. So here are some of the most famous copypastas on the internet that you’ve probably come across at least once, either in their original format or as an edited snowclone.

One of the biggest copypastas online is “It’s so sad, Alexa is playing Despacito”. It refers to a humorous fictional conversation between a user and their digital assistant. This copypasta was started on Tumblr and then spread to the rest of the internet. Users often replace “Despacito” with a song relevant to the conversation at hand. For example, in a Pokémon-themed forum, someone might post, “So sad, Alexa is playing Catch ‘Em All.”

Another variation is creepypastas, short horror stories fueled by Internet folklore. Perhaps the most famous creepypasta is Slenderman, a chilling tale of an exceptionally tall man in a suit. Slenderman’s story has inspired spin-offs, a hit video game series, and a movie.

Ultimately, there’s no real guideline on what constitutes a copypasta. They are essentially full-scale inside jokes – people in the know will find them funny, while those who don’t may find them incomprehensible and boring. If you want to learn more about the world of memes, check out our explanation of what memes are and where they come from.

RELATED: What is a meme (and how did it come about)?

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