The group of memes birthed from episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants makes a crowded pantheon. There’s Blurry Mr. Krabs, Handsome Squidward, Primitive Sponge, and Surprised Patrick. You might think we — the internet — had reached our maximum carrying capacity for memes featuring a talking sponge who wears shoes and flips burgers for a living. But if you thought this … you’d be wrong. Over the past few weeks, another SpongeBob SquarePants meme has surfaced from Bikini Bottom to grace our timelines. Introducing: Mocking Sponge.
Mocking Sponge comes from a 2012 episode entitled “Little Yellow Book.” The actual plot has very little to do with mockery and more to do with chickens and plaid. (Reminder, this show has been airing, successfully, for over a decade.) Squidward gets his hands on SpongeBob’s diary and discovers that whenever he sees plaid, he is overcome by the need to act like a chicken. Which, naturally, cue Mr. Krabs popping up from behind the register wearing a kilt, prompting SpongeBob to bend over at the waist and cluck. His eyes bulge out of his head, and his nose arcs into a semi-beak.
So that’s the origin story, sort of. Earlier in May, Twitter user @OGBEARD tweeted a macro of the scene, comparing it to staring at kids who stare at you for too long. This was the first instance of Mocking Sponge becoming a meme, as per Know Your Meme. The textual element — yOu KnOw WhAT I mEaN — of the meme would be added soon after.
That same day, @lexysaeyang tweeted the image as a diptych beside a picture of a (real) bird with (cartoon) arms. She captioned it with the call and response, which are identical, except the latter is in a jumble of upper- and lowercase letters, like a ransom note created with pasted letters cut from magazine clippings. (The idea, so far as there is one, is that the erratically capitalized line is meant to represent a sort of mocking imitation of the original line.) This is now the canonical format of the Mocking Sponge meme.
From there, the meme spread like wildfire.
Mocking Sponge has been making the rounds for nearly two weeks at this point. Which means, we’re likely nearing the end of its life cycle. In fact, the meme may already be dead, and we just haven’t realized it yet. Think of memes like stars in the sky. They’re so far away that when they burn out, it takes years for the light to stop reaching our eyes. The same is true of memes. Enjoy the last vestiges and modifications of Mocking Sponge floating into your News Feed, and then … let it go. Chances are good that there’ll be another SpongeBob meme soon enough, anyway.