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Yanny, Gritty and a massive cow: The year of 2018 in fun/weird internet

We've collected some of the best parts of the internet in 2018 in an effort to provide a respite from the rest of the internet, which is bad.
Image: Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty drops onto the ice at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Nov. 23, 2018.
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty drops onto the ice at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Nov. 23, 2018.Drew Hallowell / Getty Images file

The internet, once a place full of whimsy, is now more associated with troll armies, Russian misinformation plans and general awfulness.

But there's still moments of fun, digital weirdness and absolutely massive steers. And grape surgery? You bet. If anything, 2018 provided a variety of internet-based inanity — some of which had very real-world impact. Just ask Elon Musk.

A word of caution — this is not an exhaustive list meant to capture every meme and mistaken tweet, but rather the breadth of what the internet had to offer in 2018. And so we present: the year in fun/weird internet.

January: Tide Pods

The Tide Pod phenomenon began in 2017, but January saw it gain a significant amount of attention, with Google Trends highlighting a massive spike in U.S. searches.

Like with many weird internet trends, the teens were to blame for reportedly participating in the "Tide Pod Challenge," in which people would ingest the tasty-looking but poison-filled nuggets.

Tide Pod was arguably not the dumbest challenge to have emerged from the internet in 2018. That superlative would go to the "Hot Water Challenge."

February: "Change my mind" signs

Steven Crowder, a right-leaning Canadian media personality, triggered one of the year's most enduring memes when he tweeted out a picture of himself sitting at a table on the campus of Texas Christian University with a sign that read, "Male privilege is myth. Change my mind."

The picture was itself remixed but "change my mind" spawned a range of variations, many of which made their way into the real world. Our favorite? The Halloween setup of famous horror movie killers with a sign, "Those teenagers deserved it. Change our minds."

March: The "American Chopper Argument" meme

Few memes have proven as popular, digestible and enduring as the "American Chopper Argument" meme.

The format is simple: Five panels in which the father and son who starred in the "American Chopper" reality TV show engage in an increasingly heated discussion.

Like many memes, it was around for a while before taking off, but few memes have achieved its level of notoriety. The meme rose to the level of warranting an explainer from digital media outlet Vox, which wrote that it had been used to capture "everything from the difficulties of pet ownership to the intricacies of the gender wage gap."

One of the best examples came from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Twitter account — itself a contender for our fun/weird internet list.

April: The Walmart Yodel boy

Viral videos, once a mainstay of the fun/weird internet, are something of a dying form. The exception in 2018 was Walmart yodel boy.

Mason Ramsey, 11, now has a record deal and an appearance on "The Ellen Degeneres Show" underneath his belt-buckle. It all started in March, when a Twitter user uploaded a video of Ramsey singing "Lovesick Blues" by Hank Williams.

By April, the video had caught fire, making Ramsey easily the most fun/weird viral star of 2018.

May: Weezer covers Africa's "Toto"

In December 2017, a Weezer fan set up a Twitter account in an effort to get the band to cover "Toto," the 80s anthem from soft-rock group Toto.

The request received some attention and had the support of Toto co-founder David Paich, but was a bit of a slow burn until March, when Weezer did cover a Toto song — "Rosanna."

That appeared to be a bit of a troll on Weezer's part until May, when Weezer dropped its "Africa" cover — which then hit No. 1 on Billboard's Rock Airplay list in August.

May: Yanny/Laurel

There are few things that galvanize the internet more than being able to organize itself into two sides to then yell over something entirely innocuous.

And so, in the grand tradition of "The Dress," the internet seized on audio of a person saying "Laurel" — which many people heard to say "Yanny." The split occurred because of differences in how a person's hearing weighs high and lower frequencies.

The phenomenon cracked Google's top "What is" searches for 2018, coming in at No. 9.

May: Flossing

Regardless of whether you know what flossing is, you've seen it.

The dance, which first caught on in 2017 but reached global popularity in 2018 thanks to the video game "Fortnite," which on its own could populate this entire list, showed up everywhere: the World Cup, an Ohio State halftime show and even the set of NBC's "The Good Place."

Not since dabbing has a particular move so captivated young Americans, who tend to perform the move anytime a camera is on them. While the video game was something of a year-long trend, Google Trends search data indicated a spike in May.

August: That Elon tweet

It was a tweet truly heard 'round the word. On Aug. 7, Elon Musk tweeted: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured."

It would trigger a wave of speculation and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and Musk would go on to settle with the agency — which included a $20 million fine from the SEC, which is also reportedly overseeing some of his Twitter activity.

September: Gritty

The internet hasn't been quite the same since Sept. 24, when the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers introduced their new mascot: Gritty.

In an almost effortless manner, Gritty took the internet by storm and remains a popular topic of fodder.

It's appeal? Hard to say. For many, Gritty evokes some combination of Muppet-induced nostalgia combined with a certain sense that Gritty's frazzled nature represents our shared feeling with the modern era.

October: Hot duck

The internet, with a little help from New York media, can turn a single duck into an international sensation.

That's what happened when a male Mandarin Duck was spotted in Central Park.

November: The massive cow

You may know by now that the massive cow from Australia is neither a cow (it's a steer) and not that big (the other cows around it are a different, smaller type).

But for at least one solid day, the internet was abuzz about "Knickers," which was reported to be too big to be slaughtered.

Granted, it is a very big steer, just a few inches short of the Guinness World Record for tallest living steer.

November: They did surgery on a grape

Our last piece of internet is also the weirdest.

All the way back in 2017, digital media outlet Cheddar made a video about a medial robot. To show just how advanced the robot was, the video included footage of the robot peeling a grape along with the words, "They did surgery on a grape."

A significant strain of internet humor relies on taking things out of context in order to highlight their inanity. New York Magazine's The Cut has a good breakdown of it, pointing to its origins in a social media-friendly video as well as the use of the word "did," which along with other forms of "do" is a bit of internetspeak.

But on some level, it's impossible to explain "they did surgery on a grape" to someone. It's the kind of thing that makes sense only to people who spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet and its weirder parts.

So if you don't get this particular meme, you can consider yourself lucky.