The one means to clarify the response to Merriam-Webster’s year-end announcement that “doggo” was one of many dictionary’s “Phrases We’re Watching” is to make use of one other colloquialism: Twitter misplaced its rattling thoughts.
It wasn’t the primary time Merriam, the hippest dictionary that ever was (sorry, Oxford), has included internet-beloved phrases into its corpus; it lately added definitions for the phrases “troll,” “woke,” and “hashtag.” Nor was it the primary time social media reacted strongly to such a transfer (see: the Great “Shade” Elation of 2017). However for the distinguished lexical arbiter to acknowledge doggo’s place and recognition was a win for practitioners of “DoggoSpeak,” a specialised vernacular used primarily in memes extolling the cuteness of canines. (DoggoSpeak contains fun-to-say made-up phrases like doggo, pupper, flufferino, and doge. You most likely don’t need to be fluent to translate, although NPR did a thorough deep-dive on the vocabulary.)
The announcement was additionally a recognition by Merriam that its authentic entry for “doggo”—outlined as “in hiding—used chiefly in the phrase to lie doggo”—was out of step with its extra present incarnation. “The character of lexicography basically is that it all the time lags behind language, and that is the case with doggo,” says Merriam-Webster affiliate editor Kory Stamper. “The actual swell of the trendy doggo wave got here in 2016 and 2017 with the popularization of the WeRateDogs Twitter account.”
There’s a sure fact to this. Doggo first popped up on WeRateDogs on April 1, 2016:
However whereas the account introduced the phrase to WeRateDogs’s 5 million followers, Matt Nelson, the account’s founder, is fast to make clear he can’t be credited with its genesis. “I didn’t coin the time period,” he says, “however I did acknowledge that dog-lovers latched on to it shortly.”
Really, there’s a powerful case to be made that the phrase originated in Australia. To begin, doggo first gained traction on a Fb group known as Dogspotting, a 10-year-old neighborhood that grew to become fairly standard in Australia, says internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch.
“Australian English has this tendency to make cute pet-names, what’s recognized within the literature as hypocoristics,” says McCulloch. “Like ‘afternoon’ turns into ‘arvo,’ or ‘avocado’ turns into ‘avo,’ or John turns into ‘John-o’.”
Ben Bergen, a cognitive science professor at UC San Diego, additionally notes “the -o suffix is way more frequent in Australia and Nice Britain. Like ‘boy-o’ or nicknames for individuals, like ‘Jim-o.’”
“It is doable the [Australians on Dogspotting] had been simply utilizing this slang and it caught on as an web factor as a result of individuals encountered it within the group,” says McCulloch.
McCulloch’s analysis on doggo led her additional down beneath, to a 1966 doc titled “Industrial and intellectual property in Australia, Volume 3” wherein the phrase was referenced as an affectionate time period for a canine. (Doggo as a time period for canine additionally made an look in a 1994 novel set in Sydney known as the Weston Males’s Tennis Membership.)
But when the time period has been round some time, why did the web just recently latch on to it?
There are a few explanations for this. The primary is that it was circumstantial, that the time period occurred to hit at a second when the collective craved one thing cute. “I might say the time period ‘doggo’ caught on due to the rise of the healthful meme,” says McCulloch. “Within the aftermath of the election, and even in 2016, there was this concept that the web is changing into a extra hostile or much less pleasant place. So this is this type of feel-good meme that is changing into standard as a result of nobody can disagree with the truth that this doggo is cute.”
If doggo has been round some time, why did the web only recently latch on to it? It could be that the time period hit at a second when the collective craved one thing cute.
That may monitor with a minimum of a part of the explanation M-W added it to its checklist. “There was no precipitating occasion that led to its being highlighted on the characteristic, although I am going to confess I am an enormous fan of @dog_rates on Twitter,” says Stamper, “and it is fairly possible the dog-picture sanity breaks I take whereas mired in defining work might need led to me pondering extra concerning the phrase ‘doggo.’”
However McCulloch has one other idea, one that usually explains any shift in web habits: the rise of smartphones. “Again once I had a digital digital camera, first, I did not all the time have my digital digital camera on me. And, if I did, to get these images off of the digital digital camera, I needed to plug it into my pc, I needed to discover the cable, add them, and so forth. And I wasn’t going to try this for another person’s random canine!” she says.
“However now, you have got a digital camera with you always that has web connectivity and you may take images of stuff in your setting and simply share them with individuals. And generally, these images are of canines.”
(The rise of the smartphone digital camera may additionally partially clarify a longstanding web trope: the early web is for cats and the social web is for canines. Felines dominated when individuals may solely add footage from their houses, the place kittehs rule. However canines, particularly different individuals’s puppers, may be photographed and shared with Instagram or Fb from nearly wherever.)
The query now could be, will doggo stick round? WeRateDogs’ Nelson has seen a fall within the time period’s recognition and has subsequently curtailed his personal use of it. “I might say throughout the previous six months, I’ve began to make use of doggo a little bit bit much less as a result of it would not invoke the identical response that it as soon as did.”
The time period’s greatest probability of survival is its potential internet-to-IRL crossover enchantment. “It undoubtedly has all the traits of a phrase that might very simply go from on-line to offline,” says McCulloch. “It began as an offline phrase; it is very pronounceable; it would not depend on punctuation or capitalization or any type of typographical methods to make it legible. And, anecdotally, persons are much less self-conscious concerning the form of language they use to speak to their canines so that they’re most likely extra prepared to make use of slang or cute phrases or affectionate phrases. That being stated, the sharper one thing rises, the sharper it may possibly fall.”
Plus, within the pantheon of persistent palabras, a phrase like selfie had endurance as a result of it outlined a brand new cultural assemble: the now-ubiquitous act of pointing a digital camera at your self and snapping a pic. Doggo has the misfortune of competing in a crowded “market of phrases,” Bergen notes. Synonyms, it will appear, are, ahem, a bitch.