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Will Styler

Associate Teaching Professor of Linguistics at UC San Diego

Director of UCSD's Computational Social Science Program

im in mai blog, postin’ bout cats: The Cuteness of Grammatical errors (2007)

This was originally posted on my blog, Notes from a Linguistic Mystic in 2007. See all posts

This post really has two reasons for existence. The first, a linguistic reason, is to pose a question to the readers about our use and perception of language. The second is to post a series of pictures (not my own) that will assuredly make the reader smile and/or laugh. Hopefully you’ll enjoy both.


From what I gather, the phenomenon of funny cat pictures began on one particular web image board. I’m not going to give the name of the board as it’s an board where people can post anonymously, so there’s frequently content there I don’t want to endorse. Regardless, a tradition called Caturday arose. On Saturdays, people would find pictures of cats with interesting expressions, then caption them in humorous ways. These have been posted in various places on the internet, and it’s not uncommon for them to show up in random discussions on all sorts of sites. Recently, I went looking for more of them (as I find them quite funny), and found a treasure trove of cats, strangely enough, posted on a BodyBuilding forum. Based on these images, I’ve been able to make a Linguistic observation:

Cats have bad grammar, and it’s funnier that way

In many of the pictures I found, I’ve noted pretty significant deviations from conventional English Grammar. Ranging from the incorrect application of language rules (“eated”), to internet style contractions (“plz” for “Please”), to out and out incorrect verb agreement (“I are serious cat”), many of these captions use blatantly bad grammar. Here are some examples:

The fact of the matter, though, is that the bad grammar somehow makes it funnier. Somehow, saying “I am a Serious Cat, and this is a Serious Thread” doesn’t have the same ring to it. The best explanation I’ve come up with is that the grammatical errors remind English speakers of the speech of children, and thus, come up with more cuteness. If you have any ideas, I’d like to hear them.

A meme is born

Before I go, I’d like to talk a bit more about the “im in ur ____, ____ing your ____” construction. I’m not sure what the original version was, but since its inception, it has truly become an internet meme, a sort of internet in-joke that’s become a cliché due to frequent posting. There are lots of different variations on this construction (“im in your fridge, eating ur foodz”), and it has even been applied outside of cats. This past November, when the Democrats gained control of the US Congress, this picture promptly popped up online featuring the new Speaker of the House:

Just to think, from such humble roots, Caturday has spawned a new internet sensation reaching as far as the US Congress. Oh, the glory of the internet.

Followup: I’ve discussed the LOLCat dialect a bit more recently, so if you’re interested in this phenomenon and the heights it has reached, you might want to read “im in ur programmz, codin in ur dialect”