What is Copypasta?
Ever noticed the same, apparently random, blocks of text popping up all over particular comment sections? Do you wish you were in on the joke? What is ‘copypasta’, and why is that Navy Seal guy so mad all the time?
If you’re looking for somebody to blame for the spread of Copypasta on the internet, blame Larry Tesler. The iconic software engineer – who died aged 74 in 2020, so maybe have a little goddamned respect dude – worked at Xerox, Amazon, Yahoo! and Apple in a long and illustrious career.
Foremost among Larry’s many important contributions to modern computing was his development of the cut, copy and paste functions. CTRL-C, CTRL-V, all that good shit. If nothing else, Larry’s brainchild helped a generation of hack writers (hello) meet their word count expectations with minimal effort.
But he also spawned a distinctive form of meme. The opaquely named Copypasta.
SO WTF IS A COPYPASTA?
As you may have figured out by now, Copypasta is a portmanteau. A combination word, basically, yoking together ‘copy’ and ‘paste’. If you ‘copy and paste’ a piece of text, technically that’s a Copypasta.
Why is that worthy of discussion on a blog about memes? Because certain comic geniuses have realised that by copying and pasting particular blocks of text, ideally those that were originally meant seriously, and posting them in inappropriate places, can itself be a spicy meme.
Or at least, be really funny to those who get the joke, and really baffling to those who don’t. An in-group, out-group kinda thing.
NAVY SEAL COPYPASTA
The most iconic example of the form dates back to the year 2010. On a 4chan message board called Operator Chan, beloved by fans of military hardware, some asshat reacted badly to some perceived slight by his fellow posters.
‘What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch?’, begins the nearly-300-word screed.
‘I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills.
‘I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth.’
STILL DON’T GET IT DUDE
Something in the tone of the post, the fact the person called it ‘gorilla warfare’, is so deliciously funny. Whoever he or she was (probably a he, let’s face it) was clearly blinded by rage.
The fact that people can just copy this barely literate rant (CTRL-C, thanks Larry) and can just paste it anywhere (CTRL-V, nice one big dog) into the most random conversations is, again, profoundly funny.
It’s funny because a bunch of people just don’t get it at all. But if you do get it, you’re in on the joke. It’s the perfect meme.
It’s taken on a life of its own, as all good memes do. Check out this musical version. Richi Phelps, a 10-year-old, translated it into Spanish and posted it without explanation on his Facebook page, baffling an entire other culture.
BETTER EXAMPLE OF COPYPASTA
A (happily much briefer) example of copypasta goes a little something like this:
It was written on a forum about Wii games, and is deployed on chats by people in-the-know (that now includes you! Hopefully) to show bafflement, or more precisely to satirise the bafflement of others in response to random incomprehensible outbursts.
BEE MOVIE COPYPASTA
A really audacious application of copypasta cropped up in about 2013, when there was a craze for remixing animated Jerry Seinfeld kids flick Bee Movie.
‘According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway.
‘Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.’
Such was the popularity of the Bee Movie copypasta that a vigorous online campaign started, begging Seinfeld to make a sequel.
He declined, because, y’know, Copypasta is fundamentally dumb.