The “when” meme in social media discourse
This paper analyzes the “when” meme, a popular internet meme, which prototypically juxtaposes a
when clause with an ostensibly unrelated image. Despite the initial incongruity, I contend this image prompts selective
mapping between verbal and visual elements to produce a multimodal simile. First, I attempt to define and more clearly distinguish simile
from metaphor. Second, I show how this multimodal simile exhibits unique viewpoint mapping by prompting audiences to subsume viewpoints that
are both unfamiliar and bizarre. Third, I connect the like construction in simile with the like reported
speech marker to show how both concepts are intimately related. Ultimately, the paper seeks to contribute to studies of simile by bolstering
its ties with multimodality, blending, metonymy, viewpoint, and embodiment.
Keywords: cognitive linguistics, internet memes, multimodality, simile, viewpoint
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