What Does “It’s Meta” Mean?

Have you ever been wandering around life’s merry way when you hear someone say…

“Woah, that’s meta.”

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The first time I heard that, I had no idea what that meant. So I asked Google. Google then proceeded to throw things at me with remarkable precision. So then I asked a bunch of college students from various majors.

They all just kind of went “huh.”

So without answers I started digging deeper, and this is what I found. We know that “meta” is a relatively common prefix. It means “beyond” or “in relation to.”

So, metaphysics means “beyond physics.” A metaphor is basically “beyond the words on the page.”

Meta Knight is also the most awesome anti-hero in the history of video games. Also, the bane of every Super Smash Bros. player ever.

Anyway, back on track. Meta is anything distinctly self-referential or recursive. In modern usage it also normally must possess an element of humor.

A person watching TV of a person watching TV of a person watching TV (like in Star Trek’s The Menagerie, look it up) is meta. A quote of a quote of a quote is meta.

Was it Max who asked “Was it Oliver who asked ‘was it Sydney who asked ” was it Josiah who asked where the remote is” ‘ “? That’s meta.

Meta is one of those things that’s hard to capture in a bottle, although if you did you’d actually have to capture meta in a bottle in a bottle for it to count. Look out for it, and don’t be afraid to be that annoying 14-year-old who always says…

Woah, that’s meta.

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Matthew Estes

Matthew Estes currently exists in the ether between graudate student and full-time worker. One day he hopes to be a full-time novelist and blogger, but until that day comes he spends his time playing video games, eating pizza, and being with his soon-to-be wife. However, he has yet to do all three at the same time. Bucket list stuff, you know.