Vanessa’s New Baby

If you spend as much time on the Internet as we do, you eventually run across the meme phenomenon. It rhymes with cream and refers to all things viral. If you have seen the YouTube video of dancing baby...


or Susan Boyle singing on Britain’s Got Talent, you’re as much a part of the meme scene as anyone.

If you want to immerse yourself in these things, there’s a whole timeline of memes on

What I’ve realized lately, however, is that there is a genre of memes that can be viral on a very localized level. Have you ever gotten an email intended for someone else, and they have copied about 40 people on it? Then when each of the 40 people responds and is rude enough to hit the REPLY ALL button, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving. It goes viral and becomes a meme, but only locally, within your own email inbox.

My latest experience with a local meme was the receipt of an email from a manager at a real estate office in Malta of all places. The subject line read “Vanessa’s New Baby.” The original message, sent to 40 friends and colleagues:

Hi Guys,

During one of our student representatives discussion we decided that it might be a great idea if we buy a bunch of flowers and a card for Vanessa’s upcoming baby. Thus we will be collecting €1 from each student, remember that this is optional and feel free not to participate.

Should you have any other queries and issues you want to discuss (no recession problems please ), please do not hesitate to contact me.

I knew immediately that it was misdirected because I don’t know anyone who lives or works on Malta, I don’t know a pregnant Vanessa, and I don’t have €1 note. But I was fascinated by the message. What did the author mean by “new” baby? Was Vanessa always pregnant? Did she have some "previously owned" babies? Notice the use of the smiley face regarding issues with the recession. Well, that makes sense – they are in the real estate business and that's about all the smiles they get. Bad timing for Vanessa, eh?

It really became amusing when the responses went viral in my inbox. “Count me in,” says Ryan. “I’m in,” writes Samuel. “Same here,” from Clinton. Then I hear from Milos, Keith, Kyle, Earl, Jeffrey and Vladimir. They are all in. I noticed there were no women responding and began to think that’s how Vanessa may have gotten pregnant in the first place.

After about twenty of these replies to the original message, I realized that this meme has helped me coin a new euphemism for email that goes to unintended recipients – as in, "I got a Vanessas Baby today from some guy in Nigeria."

All of this goes to prove that time on the Internet isn’t wasted.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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