We’ve been watching the ERMAHGERD meme evolve for a while now at Superlinguo, because we are very much into anything that involves language play and word transformation. And because its humour hasn’t worn off yet.
I mean LOOK AT THIS:
We thought we’d see if we could pull together some “rules” for how to spell in ERMAHGERD, to document its “grammar” (in inverted commas to acknowledge that it’s not a complete grammar, in the strict sense).
You might remember my fellow Superlinguist Lauren’s and her colleague Jill’s work deconstructing the way LOLspeak works and its use in online identity creation. They looked at language play and how a set of agreed rules, a “grammar” had been constructed and extended within the LOLcats paradigm.
ERMAHGERD has some similar hallmarks it would seem, though it’s a simpler cultural product because it’s really just about spelling words differently, according to the conventions co-created online, to create humour.
Expounding on this meme has created a longer post than usual - read on if you’re keen!
Although it continues to bear mentioning that Ermahgerd only works in non-rhotic dialects where “er” actually does sound like schwa. For my rhotic Canadian dialect, the change from any vowel —> /er/ is more of a distortion than a neutralization. So “ermahgerd” feels nothing like “oh my god”. And having to put on an Aussie/RP accent in order to understand an internet meme might be overkill.
I’d guess that Ermahgerd being a more common meme among non-rhotic speakers is related to that study that found that twitter users have regional dialects.