The Origins Of The Internet’s Best-Loved Memes

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Think you know your memes? Many of us LOL, ROFL and LMAO at these in one form or another every single day, but do we actually know how they all began? To make sure that these classics get the recognition they deserve, we’ve compiled a list of some of the Internet’s most popular memes and the stories behind them.

Success Kid

The meme origins of success kid. A beautiful tale indeed.

First up on our list of meme origins is one image that you’ll probably recognise immediately. Originally known as ‘I hate sandcastles’, for obvious reasons, Success Kid began when photographer Laney Griner took this picture of her 11 month old son Sammy. Because you just can’t keep a photo as BRILLIANT as this to yourself, she uploaded it to Flickr and Getty Images. And the Internet couldn’t thank her enough.


Users on social networking sites like MySpace snapped it up immediately. In 2011, the image transformed into success kid when a user posted it to Reddit and a star was truly born.

Meme origins to billboard SUCCESS

Y U NO Guy

Part moon, part rage-filled potato man, the Y U NO guy appears to have originated from a Japanese sci-fi manga series named Gantz. That look of intense and pure fury really is unmistakeable.

The meme origins of Y U NO guy

The first known instance of Y U NO guy was posted to Tumblr and soon began to blow up the net.

Meme origins of Y U NO TXT BAK revealed!

The Internet really was created for classic web bants like this.

Scumbag Steve

Originating from the album cover for ‘Ma Gangsta’ by rap group ‘Beantown Mafia’ (great name), Scumbag Steve became an icon for representing unethical behaviour. You know, such as taking the last tea bag and not replacing it. Those kind of unforgiving actions that leave you thinking, ‘Ooh, how dare they’.

Rappin' through those meme origins.

The first instances were posted to Reddit in 2011. The guy behind the fame of Beantown Mafia is called Blake Boston, or ‘Weezy B’, and he later revealed that his mum took the picture. If that ain’t gangsta, then I don’t know what is.

Funny meme origins are the greatest


The thoughtful philosoraptor started its life as a Lonely Dinosaur t-shirt in 2008 by some dude called Sam Smith. LOL. It was inspired by Sam’s mate Devin, who was ‘always hunched over his desk thinking’, so they nicknamed him the ‘Philosoraptor’. Great bants guys.

The meme origins of the extinct Philosoraptor.

Some joker then went on to photoshop a velociraptor from Jurassic Park holding a copy of Plato’s complete works, but it never really took off.

Meme origins: This Philosoraptor Plato didn't really take off...

However, memegenerator was then born and the original Philosoraptor transformed into the fully-fledged meme we know and love.

Meme origins: This is the one that we all know and love!

Socially Awkward Penguin

The first image of socially awkward penguin was taken by George F. Mobley, for a fact sheet about Adeli penguins for National Geographic.

Meme origins: This little fella (or lady) became the basis for Socially Awkward Penguin

It floated around on blogs for a while, but things picked up after a user on Reddit posted the image whilst responding to another posted seeking help for their anxiety troubles. User parttimehuman reassured the user by using socially awkward penguin to show that everyone in life has times when they feel out of their comfort zone. N’aww.

Meme origins: Socially awkward penguin is one of the most used memes out there today

Xzibit Yo Dawg

Centred around the most excellent hip-hop artist Xzibit, actual name Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, the original pictures came from a shoot to promote his 2006 sports drama, Gridiron Gang.

As explain, the memes have the general formula of ‘Yo Dawg, I herd you like (noun X), so I put an (noun X) in your (noun Y) so you can (verb Z) while you (verb Z).’ Meme maths at its best. The image was posted in 4chan forums, and Reddit and Tumblr later followed.

Meme origins: Xzibit's Yo Dawg has become recognisable all over the web – but do you know where it comes from?


Enjoyed this article on meme origins? Why not also take a look at How You Can Spot An Internet Hoax and 18 Confusing Optical Illusions That Will Play With Your Mind?