Recently embattled Facebook, Inc. may have wanted to think outside the anglophone box before choosing a new name.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s October 28 announcement the internet giant was rebranding as “Meta” (Facebook, Inc. products, including the eponymous social media platform, will retain their names) was met with a combination of curiosity and derision from internet users the world over.
Meta, the social-media-behemoth-formerly-known-as-Facebook’s leap into the world of virtual reality, may or may not take off like Mark Zuckerberg hopes (some version of this idea has been around since the 1990s, after all, but has yet to make the impact that successive iterations of its champions have claimed it would), but it has already conquered one realm: the land of internet memes.
Meta, as a productive English prefix, is fairly well-known to the English-speaking world, but take the word to its Greek roots and that familiarity breeds, if not contempt, then certainly no shortage of puns. In Modern Greek, μετά /meta/ is used as both a productive prefix and a standalone word meaning “after,” meaning there were plenty of jokes to be had at Meta’s expense.
Some referenced popular Greek songs:
Some played with the similarity to a more internationally famous Greek word:
While former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis took to Twitter to give Zuckerberg a tongue-in-cheek warning to avoid any confusion between the latter’s company and the former’s democratic socialist political party:
Κοντά τα χέρια κ. Zuckerberg από το όνομα του mέta , του Κέντρου Μετακαπιταλιστικού Πολιτισμού (https://t.co/2FzQ18HAf4). Εσείς μπορεί, πράγματι, να δουλεύετε για να γίνει πραγματικότητα ο δυστοπικός μετακαπιταλισμός. Τον Πολιτισμό όμως δεν θα τον αναγνωρίζατε ούτε στο ένα μέτρο
— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) October 28, 2021
[Hands off the name Meta, the Center for Post-Capitalist Culture (https://t.co/2FzQ18HAf4), Mr. Zuckerberg. You may, indeed, be working to make dystopian post-capitalism a reality. But you wouldn’t recognize culture if it bit you on the nose]
But the jabs weren’t relegated to the Hellenic internet. Arabic-speaking Facebook and Twitter users got in on the fun as well, with very…meta jokes that required both a knowledge of Arabic and internet meme history to fully enjoy.
Meanwhile, Portuguese-speaking internet users got to have a laugh over the fact that “meta” is the imperative form of a verb with the colloquial meaning “to have intercourse.”
Whatever the future holds for Feta … I mean Meta, and the larger virtual reality project in general, Zuckerberg and company have undoubtedly (re)learned an important lesson: if you want to rebrand your product to users around the globe, it’s probably best to take the multilingual nature of that globe into consideration.