If dogs could talk, what language would they speak? The web has an answer: DoggoLingo. You can find DoggoLingo anywhere people post pictures of cute canines – pretty much every social media platform.
This “language” is characterized by short, simple phrases; scattershot adherence to grammatical conventions; inventive spellings that you may or may not find adorable (smol for “small,” bork for “bark”); and suffixes that signal cuteness, such as -ino. For example: “Pupperino did a blep!” (The dog stuck its tongue out.)
DoggoLingo has its own specialized vocabulary. Other words include the onomatopoeic mlem, a large blep; boop, a bop on the nose; and sploot, a dog lying on its belly with its legs out behind it. For an internet phenomenon, DoggoLingo has had staying power. It burst into memedom in 2017 and is still going strong.
I spoke with E.J. White, professor of digital humanities and author of the forthcoming book “A Unified Theory of Cats on the Internet,” about what has made DoggoLingo so popular. She explained that it is “a shared game” that people in all corners of the internet can play. It bridges gaps between groups that wouldn’t necessarily interact a lot online – children, parents, and grandparents can all appreciate pictures of dogs and take pleasure in the shared slang. Though DoggoLingo might at first glance seem insidery or exclusive, its terms are almost immediately accessible. You only have to see one picture of a corgi captioned “Sploot!” to understand exactly what that means. Finally, DoggoLingo is relentlessly positive, just as we imagine dogs to be. It reflects an innocent cluelessness, love, and unfailing enthusiasm, qualities that are uncommon online.
Part of DoggoLingo’s appeal is that it is so easy to pick up. Indeed, many people speak a version of it at home already. It is the textual counterpart to the singsongy, high-pitched baby talk we often employ with our pets, as well as with human infants. It’s easy to go from calling Fido a “floof” at home to posting about “dat Floofer.”
According to Dr. White, DoggoLingo complements LOLspeak, the internet language of cats. While internet dogs offer positivity, cats express a variety of moods. They can be silly and happy but also aloof, selfish, demanding, and most importantly, angry and sad. Grumpy Cat, whose permanently downturned mouth made her an internet sensation, didn’t like things: “I hate morning people ... and mornings ... and people” is one of her famous lines. LOLspeak is useful because it allows people to channel negative emotions. DoggoLingo lifts us up, and LOLspeak helps us out when we are down, giving us a way to vent or laugh off our bad moods. And you thought that those goob bois were just cute.