For instance, when discussing what the phrase “crow tit” meant, we delved into Korean culture, analyzed one of their proverbs, and saw how the culture of one generation influenced the culture of the next one.
We even saw how this intersection of culture and language gave birth to a hit song by the k-pop band BTS. If you haven’t read that article, I highly recommend that you check it out.
However, the interrelation between the two, language and culture, goes deeper. Sometimes, a subculture appears within a particular community, and this microcosm starts developing its own language.
Who of us isn’t baffled when they listen to people from the finance industry talk about their CDOs and CDSs? It’s almost like they’re speaking a foreign language.
Yet, when we truly appreciate the function of language, this phenomenon should come as no surprise.
You see, language isn’t just about communicating our thoughts and ideas; it is about building a sense of community and establishing a sense of belonging.
And, what can make a group of people feel more like a community than having their own language, one which is indecipherable to outsiders?
That said, if you truly want to see subcultures in action, you don’t need to venture beyond the internet. There, you will find countless communities, each with its own unique language.
Today’s word, “pepega,” is not different. It comes from the twitch community, making it a close relative to “poggers.” And, like almost every other word that originates in the World Wide Web, everything about it is fascinating.
What is the meaning of “Pepega”?
There are two answers to this question. The short answer is that “pepega” is used as a derisive online term and means “retard.” Granted it isn’t the most politically correct word, but since when has that ever stopped the internet? However, the more accurate answer is that pepega is an emote of a melted image of Pepe the frog.
Moreover, not only did this image appear on Twitch, but it is also most associated with the Twitch streamer Forsen.
This is why pepega tends to be followed by either a horn or megaphone emote, which is then followed by the words “for san” as a way of mocking the aforementioned Twitch streamer.
Over and above, there have been numerous incarnations of the pepega emote, including the pepega clap gif, the pepega megaphone, pepega penguins, and so much more.
Now, unless you’re aware of the latest Twitch trends and developments, your head is probably reeling from that last paragraph. Don’t worry: It’s completely normal.
I didn’t understand it either because there was a lot to unpack. So, let’s start unpacking.
To truly understand what the word “pepega” means and to make that last paragraph make any sense, we are going to have to answer the following questions:
What is Twitch?
What is an emote?
Who is Pepe the frog?
And, how did the pepega emote come to be from all of this?
Even though this may seem like a lot, every detail of it is incredible. And, what we’ll see at the end of this journey is not only how subcultures can conceive new words but also how some words are born as a result of the intersection of two different cultures.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What is Twitch?
Dedicated for gamers, Twitch provides live streaming services, where fans can watch their favorite streamers play their game of choice.
Although many of you might not find this very appealing, the fact of the matter is that Twitch is so popular that it gets more than 15 million users daily, each of whom stays on the site for an average of an hour and a half every day. These are huge numbers.
Why is Twitch so popular?
There are many reasons that we can think of. For viewers, it can be very entertaining, even exhilarating, to watch other people play your favorite video games.
Additionally, because viewers can interact with both the streamer and other viewers through the chat console, Twitch helps foster a sense of community.
This is not to mention that Twitch introduces its viewers to new games and helps them find useful tips for the more difficult ones.
As for streamers, they have plenty of incentives for streaming their gaming experience. In addition to gaining popularity and fame, Twitch streamers stand to make a lot of money.
The simplest case in point is the platform’s biggest name, “Ninja,” who entertains more than 11 million fans and pulls in around half a million dollars every month.
A closer look at the chatroom:
Obviously, it should go without saying that a platform like Twitch, one that encourages free expression and tries to get its viewers engaged, will contain graphic and explicit material.
For instance, some of the games being streamed might not be child-appropriate, and the streamers themselves are liable to use strong language whenever they get frustrated or surprised.
And, as we just mentioned, Twitch offers its viewers a live chat feature that enables them to converse with other viewers as well as with the streamer themselves.
Ergo, are you really surprised when I tell you that Twitch’s chatrooms can be filled with offensive language, derogatory terms, and trolls trying to get a reaction out of the rest of the viewers?
However, the chatroom can also be a place for bonding and community building. It is a place where people can share their thoughts and talk about their favorite past time with fellow hobbyists.
If anything, Twitch’s chatroom is more than just an appealing feature: It’s the catalyst that enables community building.
And, like any small community that sprouts up, it didn’t take long for Twitch fans to develop their own language and to have their unique terms, ones that left outsiders scratching their heads in confusion.
Over and above, to help viewers bond faster, Twitch offered them the ability to use emotes.
What are emotes?
You probably know what emojis are. They’re these little cartoonish faces you can use in your text messages to make them more colorful.
With that in mind, emotes are nothing more than emojis used in Twitch chatrooms, i.e. small images that add nuance, tone, and emotion to any typed message.
However, if you Google “emotes,” you will find that most people refer to them as roided out emojis and for good reason. You see, while there are about 2000 emojis out there, there are more than 30,000 emotes on Twitch.
Also, while emojis are colorful tools that can liven up a text message, emotes are more about identity and community. In fact, emotes are a big reason why Twitch has become so popular.
Interestingly, people can string more than one emote together to create a new meaning. For instance, one streamer put a few emotes together to give a new meaning.
He combined a hooded figure with red flames to mean “to defend if we get raided and to attack people who raid us.”
How do emotes define identity?
Most, if not all, of the emojis you use are sanctioned by Unicode, which is their official governing body.
However, emotes don’t have a governing body; instead, any streamer can create their own emotes and have their fans use them.
In fact, there are two main types of emotes: free and subscription-based.
Now, emotes created by streamers are usually subscription-based, which means that users have to pay a fee, which tends to be around $4.99 a month, in order to use these emotes. As a matter of fact, the large majority of emotes are subscription-based.
The fact that some emotes are subscription-based can have many benefits for both streamers and viewers.
For the streamers, aside from being an extra source of revenue, publishing emotes can be an excellent way to brand and market yourself.
After all, once a broadcaster creates an emote, viewers who pay to use said emote can use it anywhere on Twitch, not just on the original streamer’s channel.
Moreover, since streamers can create emotes with their faces on them, emotes can have a sort of personification element to them, one where they act as an avatar for the streamer.
With regards to the fans, using the emote of a certain streamer can act as a badge that a fan belongs to the streamer’s community.
Think of it like biker badges, where each biker puts a unique emblem on their clothing to show which gang they are affiliated with.
Who is Pepe the frog?
Now, we come to the star of the show, the man, or more aptly the anthropomorphized frog, who has had his face distorted just so that we can have the pepega: Pepe.
Pepe the frog is a cartoon character, and he has a very rich history. His first appearance was in “Boy’s Club,” which was an online cartoon, and he had a catchphrase: “feels good, man.
” The character’s creator, Matt Furie, was passionate about him, trying to serve the hedonistic, laid back frog and his friends through the comics. Little did Furie know that his character would soon have a life of his own.
It wasn’t long before the internet adopted Pepe as a sort of mascot, turning him into a meme. It first started on Myspace, where Pepe was used as an in-joke by people on forums.
After that, Pepe made his way to 4chan, where he found a more permanent residence.
Yet, once 4chan users started using him they couldn’t get enough of him. They started making different memes of him and adapting his catchphrase to different scenarios.
Eventually, there were countless memes of Pepe, each one displaying different emotions.
You had sad Pepe, happy Pepe, and, of course, angry Pepe. Pepe even found his way into other memes: For example, he was paired with “Wojak,” also known as “Feels Guy,” to create a melancholic meme.
People started creating esoteric memes of Pepe, dubbing them as “rare Pepes.” Pretty soon, celebrities started sharing Pepe on their social media accounts.
In fact, Pepe became such an online sensation that he inspired a “religion” called Kekism as well as a fictitious country called Kekistan.
So far, the story seems to be going well: An artist creates a character, and this character takes on a life of its own.
In fact, Furie wasn’t bothered when his creation was appropriated by other people and the deluge of memes hit the internet; he encouraged the flurry of expression.
However, Pepe’s story takes a sudden and sharp turn. Over the past decade, Pepe has been appropriated by the alt-right, a fact which was made all the more apparent during Trump’s presidential campaign.
Various white nationalist and alt-right groups posted pictures of Pepe saying or doing something racist.
Consequently, during the 2016 presidential race, Hilary Clinton’s campaign denounced the use of Pepe, claiming that he was “a symbol associated with white supremacy.”
What’s more, the Anti-Defamation League, also referred to as ADL for short, labeled Pepe as a hate symbol.
Obviously, this angered Furie. He had created Pepe, and it broke his heart to see his creation used as a hate symbol. He tried killing off the character in the comics, hoping that this would slow the alt-right’s adoption of his beloved character.
Additionally, Furie implored the ADL to remove Pepe from the hate symbols list, and he has been trying to sue any organization that misused his frog. So far, most of his efforts have been unsuccessful.
The story of Pepe, that of an overnight internet sensation that turns to the dark side and breaks its father’s heart, is so compelling that an actual documentary was made and published about the character.
Pepe goes Hollywood
The film is called “Feels Good Man,” and it tells Pepe’s story, from birth till death, showing Furie’s futile attempts to take back control of an integral part of his life.
All that said, Pepe’s story doesn’t end here; there is one last Chapter to this tortuous story.
If you remember, earlier in 2019, there were strong protests in Hong Kong over the new extradition bill. Well, guess who made an appearance at these protests?
Yep, that’s right.
Pepe & Hong Kong
Pepe showed up. This time, he became a symbol of resistance as Honk Kong protestors used him to symbolize liberty and refusal of the new bill. Pepe’s face was painted on numerous walls, and after a first-aid worker lost an eye, pictures of Pepe with an injured eye became an online sensation.
The frog was even at the spearhead of a campaign labeled “an eye for an eye.”
At first, Hong Kong’s adoption of Pepe may seem strange, especially when you consider how people in the States view this cartoon character.
Yet, it turned out that not only were the Hong Kong protestors unaware of the sort of connotation evoked by Pepe but that they also didn’t really care.
As far as they were concerned, he was a youthful character and acted as a suitable symbol for the resistance.
For Furie, this was great news. Finally, his child had come back.
While exchanging emails with a protestor in Hong Kong, Furie wrote about the protestors adopting his frog, “This is great news! Pepe for the people!”
The bigger picture of Pepega
So, let’s take another look at what pepega means.
By now, we have all of the puzzle pieces to see the bigger picture.
As mentioned earlier, Pepega is a melted image of Pepe’s face, and it is the more politically correct way of saying the “r” word.
It should be clear that pepega is what you get when the internet culture, specifically that of 4chan and Myspace, influences and enriches the Twitch community.
It is also worth bearing in mind that there are several other emotes that involve the famous frog, including PepeLaugh, pepeHands, and PepeHmmm.
That said, Pepega owes a big part of its popularity to Forsen, a Twitch streamer known for playing Hearthstone and Starcraft II.
When Forsen first added pepega to the list of emotes on his channel, his fans were so displeased that they started spamming his chatroom, flooding it with the emote they hated so much.
They also started putting a horn after the emote and writing “FOR SAN” to show that they were calling out the streamer in a silly manner. Funnily enough, it caught on.
Eventually, pepega followed in Pepe’s footsteps and became famous among the gaming community.
According to Google Trends, gamers and their fans have been using the emote more and more over the past few years.
Furthermore, the Fighting PandaS, who are a professional Dota 2 team as well as participants in the recent DPC, were called Fighting Pepegas before changing their name.
Pepega in gaming and pop culture
Thanks to its popularity, pepega has inspired different incarnations and various artistic works. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Pepega the song
If you go on YouTube, you will find a video called “pepega the song” that has around 120 thousand views. The song was probably made by a huge fan of the emote, and it details several jokes related to streamers and their fans.
The song’s melody is simple, and there is a pretty straightforward drum beat.
The pepega penguin is not the same as the pepega emote; instead, it relates to stream’s VRchat Penguin Sicko mode. In this mode, players can acquire a penguin avatar and capture their avatar’s facial emotion.
This captured facial emotion was labeled as pepega penguin, and it got famous among memes made by streamers.
Remember how we said that emotes can be combined? Well, this is one of those cases. The pepega clap brings together the pepega emote and the EZ Clap hands.
This is an alternative incarnation of pepega, one that specializes in shouting Forsen’s name loud and clear. The pepega megaphone was created in October 2018, and the words “FOR SAN” are usually seen coming out of the megaphone. You remember why, right?
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.