Jan 29th, 2020, 03:05 PM

Memes en Franglais: A Look Into Internet Connectivity and Humor

By Linnea Wingerup
Image Credit: yugnat999
Image Credit: yugnat999
Franglais meme account @yugnat999 is challenging how memes and language interact – so what does this mean for internet humor and connectivity?

A grumpy-looking kitten stares back at you from your phone, proclaiming that he "hates Mondays" as much as you do. You smile a bit before scrolling down to a picture of a man in a decidedly fateful fall, completed only with the caption "my grades this semester." Classic. 

The world of memes is taking over Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds everywhere, popping up in between news stories, updates from loved ones and that one food recipe account you follow for "cooking inspiration" (when we all know that same 15-minute pesto pasta will be your dinner for the third night in a row). In a way that has not been seen before in the digital age, memes have ultimately given connectivity through humor to the internet, even when they are predominantly featured with English captions or text. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

@feliciathegoat

A post shared by Yugnat999 (@yugnat999) on

 

So how does connectivity work when the English language is inseparable from memes and internet culture? When I came across the franco-anglophone meme account @yugnatt999 a couple of months ago (a profile I later found out many of my AUP peers also follow), it became quite clear that memes can help with not only cultural literacy but language comprehension. 

The memes on @yugnat999's account feature both the English and the French languages in their texts, oftentimes with no rhyme or reason as to when and where they switch between one another. The result is chaotic Franglais memes that comment on popular anglophone and French culture. I spoke to Tanguy, the native Parisian behind the account and creator of this unique content, to learn more.*

Tanguy notes that the memes, all of which are his own, were "a joke at first" and that he "just wanted to poke a bit of fun at 'start-up culture' and the Parisians who use Franglais non-ironically." Eventually, his personal account, @yugnat999, "transformed into a 'professional account' for memes, the rise occurring quite naturally."

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

@nikigeux

A post shared by Yugnat999 (@yugnat999) on

 

This phenomenon certainly illustrates the demand for memes on the internet, as younger generations are looking to them as a way to express their distinctive comedic perspective. "Memes are our generation's take on humor," commented Antonina Gaines, A French-Ukrainian student at AUP, further describing them as "more abstract" and "sometimes way funnier than conventional humor." 

Whether it be a couple of English words or just a single French "le," all of @yugnat999's memes feature both languages without fail, raising a question of language comprehension: must the viewer speak English and French fluently in order to be a part of this niche franco-anglophone meme community? "I don't think so; the brain manages to translate [content] by contextualizing," Tanguy says. Thus, the meme account acts as an accidental learning platform for both the estimated 90 percent of French-speaking followers and the remaining native English-speaking audience.

"I regularly have anglophones who have sent me messages to tell me my memes have allowed them to learn a bit of French, and I find that really cool," says the meme account aficionado. Connectivity and language learning are therefore born out of the simple idea that humor is universal and can be contextualized to reach a more international audience. In terms of the purpose of his meme account, @yugnat999 states, "I just hope that I make them laugh and that it allows them to think of something other than their daily troubles." 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Yugnat999 (@yugnat999) on

 

An exchange of cultural references thus occurs with the use of the two languages and @yugnat999 succeeds in bringing together a broader, more global community. Whether followers are looking to further their language skills – Zach Egan, an American undergraduate at AUP, claims that he "learned a few slang words from the memes" – or are just wanting to add original and funny content to their feed, @yugnat999 does not disappoint.

In asking for his final thoughts, Tanguy simply concluded with the cheeky note, "don't go out during the week when you have work the next day." With that said, cheers to cultural connectivity and encouraging bilingualism, because globalization is not going away, and neither are the memes that make fun of it. 

*All of Tanguy's quotes have been translated from French into English by the author