This was inspired by The Many Memes of Meta and The many memes of scifi.stackexchange.

This is something I thought of a couple months ago, but decided to wait to actually propose. I'll quote the post on Meta:

Catchphrases and concepts that spread from person to person are known as memes, which, courtesy the Internet, can now explode across the Earth like a highly contagious virus (hence "going viral"). As with their real-life counterparts, some infectious diseases are global (pandemic), while others are endemic to specific regions.

Stack Overflow, and now even more predominantly Meta Stack Overflow, have seen more than their fair share of these pathological social constructs spread through the user base. They are now ingrained units of our collective culture as SOpedians (a term which I hate, by the way).

Just as travelers' immune systems can be assaulted by new diseases in new places, new users are increasingly likely to be miffed by an ingrained meme and left sitting scratching their heads. I therefore propose that this space be used to document the memes endemic to Stack Exchange's culture.

Each meme should be listed separately and I hope that we as a community will be able to provide greater context to each one.

Please actually explain each meme in a way understandable to those not already in the know.

We have quite a colorful community on Worldbuilding, and a colorful set of questions and answers. There are, I think, memes out there. I propose that we use this to document some of them.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Are there? Can't say I've noticed many... $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Jun 6 '15 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I really wasn't sure, but I thought perhaps others had. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 6 '15 at 17:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Fair warning - when I tried this on SFF.SE, I was told that it wasn't allowed yet because the site was too new (that was after 2-3 years, too). Eventually they relented though. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Jun 6 '15 at 18:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DVK Warning taken. Thanks for that. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 7 '15 at 20:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/users/10274/johnwdailey $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 18 '15 at 3:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Would 'handwavium' be considered a meme here? I never saw it anywhere else before coming to Worldbuilding, and it's thrown around a fair bit. Also, magic. $\endgroup$ Jul 28 '15 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Maybe. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jul 28 '15 at 19:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ handwaving is a term i learnt on this site $\endgroup$
    – XenoDwarf
    Mar 22 '16 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent what does that mean? $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Jul 20 '16 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Coincidentally, I was about to write, "it is basically an HDE" in asking about two massive bodies orbiting each other: it's not necessarily a meme, and not necessarily because of your name, but I kind of want to list it here. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Feb 26 '17 at 1:33

Meme: Handwavium/Unobtanium

Originator: Unknown

Cultural height: Basically since the start of the private Beta till present day.

Background: Basically handwavium or unobtanium is used to refer to a fictional or not yet discovered element, material or resource that can accomplish anything. For example, handwavium could be used to power FTL travel. Handwavium refers to the act of waving your hands in a dismissive manner, as in waving your hands to skip to the important part of the question. Unobtanium refers to what it sounds like - some unobtainable or nonexistent material. The suffix -ium is added to both as this is the suffix added onto element names.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Handwavium and unobtainium far predate Worldbuilding SE. See TV Tropes: Applied Phlebotinum. That page dates back at least to mid-2013. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Mar 20 '16 at 22:34
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Yeah, but we have funny spinoffs that go along the same vein - see lalalaicanthearyouium $\endgroup$ Mar 22 '16 at 18:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Personally i'm a fan of Plotium Devicide. $\endgroup$ Jul 27 '16 at 23:41


Meme: Glarnak

Originator: James

Cultural height: Apr 12 2016 to present day, with an increasing popularity

Background: Made as a joke by James when Tres-2b was confused by a mathmatical error in question positive scores. I quote; "I was just going to suggest that the SE gods, mainly Glarnak the god of righteous vengeance who smites posters for violating the many laws of the network was angry with you." After the original post it was widely ignored until July 8th when it boomed in activity. It is used as our own personal deity of worldbuilding

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Heh. Now we just need to spread his message to the rest of SE $\endgroup$
    – James
    Aug 9 '16 at 13:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @James Yes, and we will smite the infidels who do not believe $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Aug 9 '16 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ The history of Glarnak $\endgroup$ Jul 31 '18 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Is something wrong with my browser? I only see a dot here, then the explanation, which doesn't reference a dot at all. $\endgroup$ Dec 13 '18 at 10:10

Meme: Alice

Originator: Serban

Cultural height: ~ Feb 2015 to present day

Background: The name of Serban's iconic hapless female wanderer fighting her way through a myriad of precognitive warriors and dream thieves. Basically, this is Serban's default name for any protagonist in any of his questions, so it's kind of grown to be an inside joke in the Worldbuilding community.

Other notes: Alice was suggested as a possible name for the woman in the Worldbuilding poster. Also, see this, this, this, this, and even this for more examples of Alice.


  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Likewise Alice and Bob pre-date WB.SE, they originated (I think) from cryptography. But the use here is clearly memetic. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Mar 15 '16 at 16:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hey, the girl gets around, ok :) $\endgroup$ Aug 8 '16 at 17:37


Meme: Anatomically Correct _______

Originator: Tres-2b

Cultural height: From ~September 2015 to present day

Background: This is a series of 20+ questions that try to create mythical creatures in a realistic, evolutionary way. Ranging from the common Griffin to the Hecatoncheires, including media monster and religious creations. Much controversy has been sparked over the name due to the fact that anatomically correct is also used to describe dolls with genitalia. Names such as scientifically correct and evolutionarily correct have been suggested, but the name has not been changed.



Meme: XKCD

Originator: Liath (at least on this site)

Cultural height: Evenly distributed

Background: XKCD is a webcomic about of romance, sarcasm, math and language featuring a monochromatic cast of characters who interact with eachother. Due to its unique and unusual scientific perspective, links to(and sometimes images) it are commonly placed around answers and sometimes questions.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I don't think XKCD is very specific to Worldbuilding. For example, the guys at Information Security have the feed coming directly in their chat. $\endgroup$ Jul 21 '16 at 7:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin true it's not exclusive, but i'd argue it is a meme $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Jul 21 '16 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin So does Space Exploration: The Pod Bay (for example here) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 8 '16 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking about exoplanets $\endgroup$
    – steverino
    Nov 5 '17 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little late to the party, perhaps, but we also now have an xkcd feed in our chat. $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Feb 4 '19 at 2:49

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