It’s a guy with a mullet and a beer. It’s a bald eagle draped in stars and stripes perched on a machine gun. It’s chicken fried bacon. It’s “Murica!”
These days, you can’t surf the Web without seeing the word “Murica” printed at the top of funny and often ridiculous memes, and you can’t have a conversation about the U.S. without someone dropping the “Murica” bomb. But what does this three-syllable word fragment mean? Is it a patriotic slogan or an insult to the American people? Is it satire or just plain sad?
As is the case with many trendy contemporary terms, the etymology of “Murica” is a little murky. Website database KnowYourMeme asserts that the term was first used on a Democratic chat site circa 2003 during an online discussion about the U.S. government allegedly funding car bombs in cities overseas, in which user Mika replied, “Who? Lil’ ol’ ‘murica wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
More recently, “Murica” is frequently accredited to Comedy Central’s “South Park,” though archives of the show do not exhibit specific use of the term. It has also been linked to South Park creators Matt Stone and Troy Parker’s satirical “Team America” film, though again, the specific term “Murica” is not used. Since the image of former president George W. Bush often accompanies popular “Murica”-themed memes, some believe “Murica” is a Bush-ism, and though Bush himself never used the word verbatim, after his reelection in 2004, the term began popping up in reference to the red states that determined his second term of presidency.
It is likely that “Murica” evolved from an idea rather than a specific usage, possibly from a combination of Bush’s attitude toward foreign policy and a media stereotyping of the “typical” American. The 2006 film “Talledega Nights” starring Will Farrell as the somewhat lovable but ignorant NASCAR driver lent this American stereotype a lending hand, and lighthearted posts like this one from Dish Network continue to do so.
So, what does it mean? “Murica,” also spelled “Merica,” was derived from the way an uneducated American would pronounce “America.” It signifies extreme or absurd patriotism. It is the epitome of freedom, but taken to the max, to the point where it becomes nearly ironic, or worse, just plain stupid.
Most of the time, “Murica” is used in a humorous way to describe Americans, but it carries derogatory connotations, such as laziness, obesity, war obsession, gun promotion, beer drinking, horse riding, bar fighting, consumerism and a basic desire for more, more more.
This one short word is used to sum up the entirety of American life, wrapped nicely in a stereotype. Someone eats a bacon cheeseburger-stuffed pizza – Murica. Trimming the hedges with a chainsaw – Murica. Chugging two liters of diet soda – Murica. Holding a can of beer while lighting a cigarette off a flamethrower? Murica. The term signifies someone doing something that only an American would do, and doing it with pride.
And it’s funny. Or is it? If the epitome of the average American is “Murica,” and “Murica” means being fat, lazy, racist, uneducated and insatiable, where does the humor come in? We think it’s funny because we think it is wrong, just misrepresentation and hyperbole. We know these Muricans. We see them at WalMart, NASCAR and on reality television, and it’s funny because we do not think of them as us, but to the rest of the world, we are all Muricans.