This Day In Internet History – Feb. 17, 2001: O RLY

Know Your Meme

Greetings, Internet historians! I am RLY excited to share today’s lesson with you.

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Yes, RLY! Today’s lesson involves an owl, some trolls, a computer virus, and Barbra Streisand — all wrapped up in the meme known as “O RLY.”

If you’re having trouble reading it, “O RLY” is an abbreviation of “Oh, really?”

 

A Brief History of O RLY

Seventeen years ago on this day, professional photographer John White published an image of a snowy owl looking, as he put it, “silly.” 

Why is the owl making that ludicrous face? According to White, it was cooling down after a particularly vigorous flight. It was panting, kind of like a dog.

Photograph by John White

White didn’t know it at the time, but the aviary subject of his photograph was destined for Internet stardom. Only, not for four more years.

In the meantime, it was 2001 — the era of online message boards. Yes, dark days — dark days, indeed. And what did people do on online message boards? They were sarcastic. They said dumb things to each other and responded with incredulity, saying things like “Ohhhhh, realllllly?” 

According to Know Your Meme, the phrase “O RLY” can be traced back to early 2003 on the forum of Something Awful, “where it was used as a deadpan response to anything you found doubtful, unimpressive or just plain dull.” I can’t think of any better adjectives to describe online message boards.

From the message boards of Something Awful, this is the first known instance of O RLY

Still, it wasn’t until 2005 that the O RLY retort found its soulmate in the image of John White’s snowy owl, on the imageboard website 4chan. That’s when an anonymous user overlaid the image with bold, white text, resulting in this gem:

Know Your Meme

Perhaps in part due to its simplicity, the O RLY image caught on with 4chan users instantly. They used it to respond sarcastically to posts not only on 4chan, but on multiple other forums, thus catalyzing its spread far and wide.

Over a short amount of time, the meme became synonymous with low-level trolling, and eventually spawned over 9,000 different iterations.

Some of the most popular O RLY versions are:

Gangsta Owl

Bodybuilding.com

O RLY Baby

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O’Reilly O RLY

Uncyclopedia

Two Controversies? O RLY?!

A couple of controversies involving O RLY led first to its ubiquitousness, then to its demise.

First Controversy: The Streisand Effect

When O RLY merchandise went on sale in 2005, photographer John White got a little miffed that he wasn’t receiving royalties. He decided to make his opinion known publicly. However, in the process of chastising popular bloggers for stealing his photograph, White found himself victim to the Barbra Streisand effect — by trying to censor the meme, he accidentally brought extra attention to it, thus making it more popular than ever.

Streisand effect aside, the craze didn’t last long. Why? My guess is, it had something to do with the virus.

Second Controversy: The Virus

In 2006, tons of computers got infected with a worm known as W32/Hoots-A. How did the virus work? Essentially, invasive malware sent pictures of the O RLY meme to the infected user’s printer, nonstop. Yeah, it’s fair to say people got pretty sick of it after that. Search queries for O RLY dropped to nearly zero within months.

Thus, the meme was over.

Still, it is used from time to time in today’s internet culture by people who want to come across as not only sarcastic, but extremely ironic. Kind of like a Nobel Laureate wearing a t-shirt that says “Jenius.”

TL;DR

What, you didn’t read all of that?

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Alright, you friggin’ slouch. Here are the main points, in recipe form:

  • Take one picture of exhausted owl
  • Stir in sarcastic message board users
  • Combine until meme
  • Bake with the heat of the photographer’s ire
  • Destroy it all with a virus

And, voilà! You’ve made an O RLY meme.

Okay, class. For homework tonight, think about how nothing represents internet culture better than loving something and then immediately hating it with the same fervor.

 

Son Surprises Ailing Dad With Tickets To College World Series

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate your old man, and show him how much you appreciate the role he’s played in your life all these years. Especially since, as we get older, our dads do too, and they may not have many Father’s Days left.

Matt Lea recognized that this Father’s Day, and so went out of his way to make it a memorable one, for both him and his father, both former college baseball players who bonded over the game as Matt was growing up.

Matt’s father Billy suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, and the symptoms have been accruing rapidly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for more memories, and Matt used the latest Father’s Day as an opportunity to do just that. The 36-year-old drove 12 hours, from Florida to Mississippi, and surprised his parents at their doorstep on Sunday.

He was bearing gifts as well, bringing his dad the jersey of his favorite baseball team, Mississippi State. But that wasn’t all. Matt brought tickets too, to see the College World Series in Omaha in person.

In video of the exchange that Matt posted on Twitter, his dad was clearly taken by surprise.

“I figured it’s probably not good enough just for us to watch the game here,” Matt says in the video as he produces the tickets. “How about we go to Omaha? Do you want to go up to Omaha and watch the College World Series together?”

“Golly,” an emotional Billy responds. “You’re gonna break my heart, here.”

Matt’s gift for his dad received a rapturous response from Twitter, where it’s been liked 46,000 times and retweeted 11,000 times.

Matt seemed as surprised by the response as his dad was by the gift, as everyone who celebrated Father’s Day yesterday knows, there’s nothing better than sharing meaningful memories with your dad, which is exactly what Matt did. An article on Omaha.com details Billy’s baseball past, the initial diagnosis of his Alzheimer’s, the VIP experience Matt treated him too over the weekend.

Matt’s Twitter account showcased the rest.

Happy Father’s Day!

Amazing Street Artist Uses Everyday Objects As His Canvas

(Twitter/tombobnyc)

Artist Tom Bob doesn’t see the world like other people. Where you and I might see sewer grates or metal pipes, he sees ghosts and saxophone players.

Check out some of the amazing ways he’s transforming parts of New York City into works of art.

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Check out more of Tom Bob and his unique artwork here.

Father Figures: Heroes

“On February 2, 2011, my daughter was born. The whole thing started pretty normally about 2:30 am or so, my wife woke me up and said, ‘Honey, it is time to go,’ so we went to the hospital in a snowstorm.

That was the easy part.

When they put the belly monitor on her they noticed that the babies heart rate would drop to low whenever my wife would have a contraction. She needed emergency C-section, but the doctor could not make it due to the storm, and when he finally arrived it was rush rush rush!
Well when my daughter Emily did arrive, she had internal bleeding throughout her body, which included two grade 4 brain bleeds. We could not touch her because she would bruise and start bleeding.
They had to life-flight her to the university, where she spent 5 1/2 weeks in the NICU, which left her (you may want to sit down) deaf/blind, with hydrocephalus, a shunt, cerebral palsy, and seizures (at age 6, she needed a baclofen pump because her CP got too bad to handle without it). She is doing great today. She is happy, loves life, and everyone who meets her says that she makes their day and she is beautiful.
To pay back our little community, I became a first responder, mostly a firefighter, but I did help with EMS. Never got my certification, but that is where I found out that in the U.S. we do not have any training for first responders to deal with children with special needs.
I have made it my personal mission to teach first responders about kids with special needs.
I have taken to Emily to every EMS/Fire station in the five counties around me. I have taken her to the police and sheriff’s departments to train them, and now I have a waiting list to get trained.
I don’t know if I am the hero here, but I needed to tell the story.”

– Mike Kuyper

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Low Cost Cosplay Guy Makes The World A Better Place

(Facebook/Lowcostcosplay)

Anucha “Cha” Saengchart, the genius behind “Low Cost Cosplay,” has amassed millions of followers with his incredible reimaginings of famous fictional characters.

Whether you’re planning on portraying your favorite anime character or a Marvel superhero, this guy can show you how to do it effectively and on a string budget.

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Can’t get enough? Check out more creative cosplay on his Facebook page.

Dad Turns Photos Of Daughter Into Kickass Album Covers

(Instagram/rfosterdesign)

When graphic designer Ryan Foster spotted a somber, black and white photo of his daughter, Harper Lou, it instantly reminded him of a blues album cover. He couldn’t help but throw some graphics onto the image to create her first “album” cover himself.

This has led to a series of album covers featuring Harper Lou, many of which look pretty damn legit. She may not be making actual records yet, but her dad will definitely be ready when she does.

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You can find more awesome album covers as well as other design projects by Ryan on his Instagram.

Father Figures: Bill Stumpf

Our first episode of Father Figures, a show highlighting what it means to be a dad. First up, we celebrate Bill Stumpf. Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

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The 5 Hottest Father’s Day Tech Gifts Your Dad Will Ask To See The Receipt For

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Mother’s Day is in the rearview and our annual celebration of everything Dad is fast approaching. Sure, he loved those grilling tongs and Three Stooges boxsets you got him last year. But if there’s one things all dads love, it’s being assured that they’ve genetically passed on their cheapness. Here are 5 Father’s Day gadgets your dad is definitely going to demand the receipt for.

1. A smart speaker

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Source: Amazon

These have become relatively expensive in recent years. This, of course, isn’t going to stop your dad from assuming it set you back several thousand dollars. Your dad just figured out how to make a Facebook profile. He’s gonna need a minute on talking AI servants.

2. A streaming stick

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Source: Roku

“So yeah, you just plug this Roku stick into the TV and you can pretty much watch anything you want.” That’s you. That’s you telling your dad you just spent a boatload of money on a piece of technology. “Instant access to every movie ever made” is your dad’s cue to ask you to retrieve the Best Buy receipt crammed in the console’s cupholder.

3. A dashcam

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Source: Amazon

These are great to have in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, your dad is still under the impression it’s 1999 and all digital cameras cost ten million dollars. Be sure to keep this receipt in your wallet, because this thing’s going right back to the store if it ran you how much he thinks it ran you.

4. An e-reader

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Source: Amazon

What a lovely thought. Your dad, sitting up in bed, every book he could possibly want at his fingertips. What will he read first? A book about World War II? The biography of Henry Ford? The answer is, of course, the receipt for this fancy reading tablet that probably set you back three mortgage payments.

5. A yearly-subscription to a music streaming service

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Source: Spotify

You just want him to be able to listen to the Doobie Brothers whenever he wants. But by his math, if buying a single song on iTunes costs $1, and Spotifly, as he calls it, gives you access to over four million songs, you’ve essentially just bankrupted your family. Good job. Be sure to keep that receipt handy to prove to him that he can still see his grandkids attend college one day.

Tweet Roundup: The 10 Funniest Tweets About Father’s Day

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Father’s Day is here! We hope you have a relaxing Sunday filled with good food, Die Hards 1-4, and the looming suspicion your kid put way more thought into their Mother’s Day gift last month. Here are 10 hilarious tweets about Father’s Day we think you’ll enjoy!

A tradition as old as dads themselves.

Leave some free work t-shirts lying around while you’re at it.

Commercials: notoriously insensitive to the plight of dads.

There’s no better present than an existential crisis.

Happy Father’s Day! Enjoy your maple syrupy pillowcases.

We’d like to wish an especially happy Father’s Day to Gene.

A stern reminder to not do this.

Get it changed twice just in case.

The easiest way to say “I love you.”

And finally, a reminder for all dads the other 364 days of the year.