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.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are there? Can't say I've noticed many... $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I really wasn't sure, but I thought perhaps others had. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 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
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 18:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DVK Warning taken. Thanks for that. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 20:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/users/10274/johnwdailey $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 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. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Maybe. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 19:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ handwaving is a term i learnt on this site $\endgroup$
    – XenoDwarf
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent what does that mean? $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 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
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 1:33

5 Answers 5


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
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 22:34
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Yeah, but we have funny spinoffs that go along the same vein - see lalalaicanthearyouium $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Personally i'm a fan of Plotium Devicide. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2016 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
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 13:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @James Yes, and we will smite the infidels who do not believe $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ The history of Glarnak $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 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. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2018 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
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 16:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Hey, the girl gets around, ok :) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2016 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.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 7:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin true it's not exclusive, but i'd argue it is a meme $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin So does Space Exploration: The Pod Bay (for example here) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking about exoplanets $\endgroup$
    – steverino
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 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
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 2:49

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