The meme known as doge—in which photos of dogs, usually Shiba Inus, are labeled with internal monologues like “wow,” “such [adjective],” and “very [noun]”—has been taking over the Web in recent weeks. Websites and comment sections are full of phrases like “Wow, so crack” (in reference to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford) and “Such fail” (in relation to the healthcare.gov rollout). But how do you pronounce doge?
No one seems to agree. If you ask Google, for example, all you’ll get is the pronunciation of the word that means “chief magistrate of Venice.” In the case of that historical term, it’s dohj.
The site Your Daily Doge, which has received hundreds of thousands of visitors, agrees:
Others, however, claim that the name of the meme is pronounced “like ‘dodge’” (or Dodge), with a soft G but a short O. Others claim that the G is hard, since the word is derived from dog, and so say the word rhymes with vogue. I could go on and on. After some research, I found partisans, for example, of doggie, dog-eh, and dough-geh.
Wow. Such confusing. Fearing a pronunciation debate of GIF-like proportions, I turned to the experts. Unfortunately, they were as lost as I was. Jesse Sheidlower, the president of the American Dialect Society, told me, “I have no idea at all.” When I wrote Adrian Chen, author of Gawker’s article on doge, about sorting this out, he began by saying, “Thank God. The controversy must end.” Chen has always said it like vogue, “mainly because it sounded funniest,” and also because VFiles, who creates popular Internet videos, has “decreed it dogue.” He added, “I imagine a dog, if it could speak, would pronounce dog with an overemphasized vowel rather than somehow intuiting the cutesy doggie, or totally mangling it into dohj.”
But Chen and Sheidlower may not be the foremost authorities. There’s also Strong Bad, who, as the Know Your Meme page on doge points out, spoke the word in a 2005 Homestar Runner video. He pronounced it dohj. Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal who frequently writes about language for Slate, told me, “In deference to Strong Bad, I would favor /doʊʒ/ or /doʊdʒ/ (with the J sound).”
But though Strong Bad may have played a crucial role in the meme’s origins, the pronunciations of words can change. For this reason, as with GIF, I’m inclined to accept both the hard G (like dog) and the soft G (because Strong Bad said so), because both are in common use and can be justified with reasonable explanations.
However, since this is at root an Internet phenomenon, perhaps it’s best to let the Internet decide. If another pronunciation proves more common in the poll below—so democracy—perhaps I could be persuaded.
Update, Dec. 6, 2013: The results of the poll are no longer displaying. Below are the latest results as of Dec. 6, which show a clear lead for dohj and dogue.