Nov. 11, 2009— -- MEEP!
Don't know what it means? Don't worry -- most people over the age of 22 don't either.
But the nonsense word -- which apparently started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker -- is causing a lot of teeth-gnashing for adults at one Massachusetts high school. They have gone so far as to threaten suspension for students caught meeping.
But just what does it mean to "meep?" No one really seems to know -- even those who use it as part of their daily vocabulary.
According to UrbanDictionary.com, meep "can mean whatever you want it to mean."
Yeah, that clears it up.
Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
"Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."
The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.
"It's almost like they look at you like it's a silly question," he said.
But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.
In an interview with the Salem News, Murray -- who did not respond to e-mail or voice mail messages from ABCNews.com -- said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.
"It has nothing to do with the word," Murray told the Salem News. "It has to do with the conduct of the students. We wouldn't just ban a word just to ban a word."
The planned disruption (meep-ruption?) never happened, he told the paper.
The Meep: Embraced By Youth, Misunderstood by Adults?
Thompson said the word is a bit like the F-word, in that it can be used as virutally any part of speech -- verb, noun, adjective.
"Meep doesn't necessarily mean what the F-word does, but it operates in similar ways," he said. "It's very similar to a face-to-face verbal version of a lot of what's emerging in emoticon key-board speech," such as LOL or OMG.
Popular uses of "meep" include:
And while it may be a new phenomenon for Danvers, people seem to have been meeping for years. Some of the earliest "meep" entries into UrbanDictionary.com were logged back in 2003. And one of the earliest meeping trendsetters seems to have been the Warner Bros. character Roadrunner: "Meep! Meep!"
There are also Facebook groups devoted to meep. The "Meep" group had 425 members early this afternoon. Wall postings, several of which come in each day, including musings such as "Fight the power! Defy the censorship! MEEP AGAINST THE MACHINE!!!!"
A posting from Tuesday: "My cat says 'meep.'"
And from Oct. 6: "I could meep all day!"
Really? All day?
Thompson said that the use of "meep" is just one of an ever-evolving list of things that teens do for no other reason than to join the crowd. He pointed to past trends -- eating goldfish, or seeing how many people you could cram into a phone booth -- as examples.
"Kids are consistently doing things that drive adults crazy," he said.
As for the Danvers High School meepers, Thompson said the principal was right to put a stop to any planned disruption, but said he probably wouldn't have gone so far as to threaten suspension over a word that has no real meaning, calling it the perfect way to start an "us versus them" situation.
"When the principal bans the use of a nonsense word it's officially been given a seal of approval," he said.