My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

Relevant links:

Archive

LOLCat Bible = infinite entertainment

I’ve been traveling constantly for over five weeks now. Whenever I’m feeling annoyed, I open up my Sidekick and stare at the LOLcat Bible for a few minutes.

“Teh Ceiling Cat giv me cheezburger, teh Ceiling Cat takded mah cheezburger awai. I stil laiks teh Ceiling Cat.” — Job 1:20

I don’t know why this gives me infinite amounts of pleasure, but it really does. There’s something absolutely amazing about webfolk engaged in a collective action project to translate the bible into cat pidgin. I can’t work out whether or not these webfolk are religious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them grew up Christian and know the bible well but aren’t practicing (many practicing folks see this as denigrating the bible, although most of my friends just think it’s damn funny).

I’m really hoping that a linguist out there will look into this phenomenon. One of the primary language sources that most linguists use to analyze languages is the bible. Missionaries went around the world translating the bible into all sorts of local languages so it’s the only source text that exists in most languages. So here we have a collective action project where webfolk somehow know the grammar of cat pidgin. But what exactly are all of those rules? How does this collective action linguistic move resemble or differ from other pidgins and creoles? I just think it’d be a fun project to linguistically suss out how this phenomenon took shape.

In the meantime, I’m happy just to read and giggle.

“Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat waz invisible, An he maded the skiez An da Urf, but he no eated it.” — Genesis 1:1

Update: Apparently, there’s a bunch of linguistic analysis. And, hackers have created LOLCat.NET

Print Friendly

17 comments to LOLCat Bible = infinite entertainment

  • Holy Crap… that is SOOOO funny–and a work of pure genius. I now have a reason to finally read the Bible. :-)

  • Hai!

    Just saw your blog in my referrer links in my logs and wanted to say your post really, in a strange way, touched me. When I started the project I was really kind of expecting a few people to get a kick out of it and move on quickly. But really the staying power has surprised me.

    I’m well near 450 registered users on the site, most of them translating a bit here and there, but I would say a nice chunk are going in everyday and translating huge portions. It’s really awesome.

    What’s more awesome is the reaction I’ve gotten. Some people insist it is a waste of time. But then I read a blog where someone said they talked about it their entire dinner time with guests. In a forum someone said it still retains the beauty of the Bible, but in a more humorous form. Still another says its an insult and should be taken down.

    Can’t win them all.

    The translations are coming in with a pretty good quality, more so than I thought. I didn’t realize how *robust* the cat pidgin is. I’m personally not too great at it, but I’ve contributed a bit, and it isn’t easy!

    Really just want to state that I am very surprised as well! I didn’t fathom this many users or this much interest. I especially didn’t expect people to be genuinely pleased with it. Furthermore, I didn’t expect the linguistics to be so interested in it!

    Anyways, I just wanted to thank you.

    Bai!

    Martin

  • Wow – Martin, thanks for stopping by! I’m actually at a conference on internet researchers and we’ve been talking about it here (although this may be partially because i keep showing it to folks on my Sidekick). Can you share why you started it?

  • Hey!

    I saw an image on the internet, from notablogm, and it was the first page of the Bible edited to show it in lolcat translation. I thought it would be pretty cool if the entire Bible was translated into kitty pidgin. I knew about the mediawiki software and thought it would be the best format to use.

    At first I thought the project would fizzle, and it was in danger of doing so before I got on digg.com. Then I saw a surge of interest and a surge of registered users dedicated to translating it. Really the impact it is having on kitty pidgin will be interesting to note later on.

    The bulk of the work is being done by outside people. Though, to say, me against 430-something users it is clear why I am not doing most of the work. Most of my time is spent keeping the server running smoothly.

    Sorry my answer isn’t more interesting… but it is really, “because I thought it would be funny.” Honestly, being a geek though, I am very interested in the linguistic properties and what the academic circles think of it.

    Martin

  • Actually, the linguists beat you to it.

    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004995.html

    Mark Liberman of Language Log has done a whole bunch of posts on lolcats before too.

  • Hey Albert,

    Actually, that site got me interested in what kind of linguistic significance this can have. Really I don’t think much of the language itself much… at least I didn’t. So this is a really interesting look into what it may actually entail, if anything.

    Really, this has me thinking about how weird I find all of this. People talking about the website offline is kind of surreal to me. Online things don’t tend to leak offline, at least not beyond internet jokes around my friends. It’s sort of a strange meshing between online and off, identities clashing.

    BBC radio is interested in an interview for a late night program. Me, as in the person, whom I don’t normally link to online… not in any strong sense. So things are pretty strange.

    Don’t mean to ramble! Anyways, just wanted to say I saw that site, thought it was pretty interesting.

  • Ken

    (wiping away tears)

    OMG, thanks for that, danah! The perfect thing to end a brutal week of teaching.

    I wonder if I could translate a polisci lecture into kitty pidgin…

    “An teh treety of Wesfella end warz an made teh nation-state systm an stufs.”

  • KG

    So brilliant and hilarious! Thanks for this. I’m going to post about this and refer my LOLcat-hungry readers to it.

    Laughter = good. (I’d translate it into kitty pidgin, but I’m still working on mastering the syntax.)

  • This is great stuff; thanks to danah for pointing it out, what a delight. I intend to blog on it myself, after I think some more why it’s so pleasing.

  • One of the primary language sources that most linguists use to analyze languages is the bible. Missionaries went around the world translating the bible into all sorts of local languages so it’s the only source text that exists in most languages.

    Hrm. See, I live with a linguist. I’ve not discussed this in *great* detail with him, only a little. The impression I got from him though was that most missionaries tend to have only basic lingustic training, and their translations tend to tell you more about the limitations of their training than the language it’s purportedly written in – anyone wanting to actually study the language will ignore the work done by missionaries and go onsite to study it first-hand.

    You seem to be speaking to different linguists than me though… do you have any sources to back this up?

  • Zhasper – my understanding is that it depends on what you’re trying to actually study about a language. It also depends on whether or not that language is still spoken. I totally understand that there are methodological challenges to this approach but all of the linguists that I know make snarky comments about how they need to know the bible to do their work.

  • Wow, I’m a huge fan of this site and refer to it often for my work. I’d never known of this particluar translation of the Bible, but it really spoke to me!

    After being raised Mennonite and moving from Lancaster PA to NYC, I realized that while I had spent many hours memorizing the King James Version of the Bible, my friends and colleagues had all been reading the classics.

    After recently becoming more devoted to daily prayer and meditation, I decided to go back to my roots and really hunker-down and sink my teeth into the good ol’ KJV! Well upon cracking it open with absolute fervor, much to my dismay, I couldn’t understand a bloody word of it. This rather bothered me for some time, but now thanks to LOLCat and this site, I can laugh about it!

  • i’m really enjoying this discussion because i’m a fascinated by linguistics + i love the LOLcat bible – for so, so many reasons. it’s a great cultural interpretation and the not-so-subtle jesting is fantastic.

    the most often referenced anti-gay passage, as translated:

    leviticus 18:22

    22 No can has teh buttsecks wif teh mens. (hehe)

  • Julie Adair

    Hey, Danah!

    I discovered Lolcats recently and it’s one of the things I most look forward to checking out each day. It even made it into Wired’s Geekopedia, for heaven’s sake!

    Hope you’re well

    Best

    Julie

  • Michael Chui

    danah,

    You have broken the awesome ceiling and entered the indescribable, ineffable domain of better-than-awesome.

    Thank you.

  • Ida

    This post and the comments have been a lot of fun. For a class in my Design and Technology program, I need to examine a digital media project based on Manovich’s Five Principles of New Media. I think I’ll use the LOLcat Bible project as my example. Thanks Danah and Martin.

  • on a related note, here is a video that explains the history of lolcats:

    http://view.break.com/392548

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>