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“Dank Memes” is an ironic expression used to describe online viral media and in-jokes that are intentionally bizarre or have exhausted their comedic value to the point of being trite or cliché. In this context, the word “dank,” originally coined as a term for high quality marijuana, is satirically used as a synonym for “cool.”
The exact origin of the phrase “dank memes” is unknown. Many have speculated that it was coined on the /s4s/ (shit 4chan says) board on 4chan, /r/2007scape on Reddit or within the montage parody community on YouTube.
On May 26th, 2013, YouTuber fennthulhu uploaded a parody video titled “How 2 make dank memes!”, in which he demonstrates how to create an “edgy” Success Kid image macro on the website Quickmeme (shown below, left). On December 20th, YouTuber Ethan Holey uploaded a video in which he recommends using “dank memes” as a replacement for the terms “awesome,” “cool” or “bodacious” (shown below, right).
On September 23rd, 2014, Redditor xEphr0m submitted a image macro to /r/funny, which featured a gnome child seated at a computer with the caption “born just in time to browse dank memes” (shown below, left). On September 30th, Redditor 369DAMNyoFINE posted an image macro of a young child dressed as a police officer writing a ticket for posting a meme that “wasn’t dank enough” to the /r/4ChanMeta subreddit (shown below, right).
On October 24th, 2014, YouTuber Juston Bibero posted a montage parody video titled “9gagger can’t handle the dank memes,” which gathered upwards of 52,000 views and 150 comments in the first two months (shown below). On December 4th, Redditor Thejacobplumb submitted a post titled “What are ‘dank memes’?” to the /rOutOfTheLoopsubreddit.
On May 21st, 2016, YouTuber scumrider uploaded a clip from the Australian news and talk show Insiders, during which journalist Denis Atkins recites the Know Your Meme definition for “dank meme” (shown below). Within 48 hours, the video gained over 598,000 views and 1,200 comments. On May 22nd, Redditor stickpeted submitted the video to /r/youtubehaiku, where it gathered more than 1,200 votes (95% upvoted) and 50 comments in 24 hours