Building your references

key catWe’ve all been there. A friend suddenly says something weird and unrelated that is clearly intended to be funny, looks at you expectantly, and… nothing. You want to say, “I don’t get it,” but you know that will make him think you’re a loser. So you half-laugh or fake smile and say, “yeah.”

Chances are, your friend was “making a reference.”  A reference is when someone pays homage to a particular piece of pop culture by reciting a (somewhat obscure) quotation from it. As a general rule, the frequency of use is directly proportional to the cleverness of your friend. For instance: if your pal interrupts you every 10 seconds to speak like Cartman and tell you his parrot is dead, you can be sure he knows what’s hip. References are a subset of a larger category called “memes.” Memes can usually be described as some annoying little thing that people find entertaining for no discernible reason, and yet they are necessary to your social survival.

Often times, the meme or reference appears on a t-shirt, and makes no sense without context. When you ask them for clarification, they brush you off with something like, “Oh, it’s just a thing on the internet.” People are generally reluctant to explain references, choosing instead to use them as a sort of coolness filter. If you know about it, then you’re cool.

So how can you be cool? The answer is research.

I spend a good 8-19 hours a day surfing aimlessly around the internet, looking for trends. It is because of this, that I am able to finish any quote, and am therefore incredibly cool. So that’s what I suggest you do, but that may not be enough.

Anytime you run across a quote you don’t know, you’ll need to look it up. You should start watching more TV and movies, and memorizing the lines. Spend hours clicking around on YouTube, just soaking everything in. The goal here is to become well-rounded in all aspects of pop-culture, but focus most of your effort on the internet, because that’s where memes are born.

Once you’re armed with your knowledge, you’ll naturally start spending your time forwarding emails, trolling message boards, belittling the uninformed, and generally being really awesome.

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