Doggos, birbs, cattos: Passwords to a secret Internet party

Following a brush with DoggoLingo, the online language of dog lovers, Sohini Das Gupta joined other meme-based animal groups to decode a cool new dictionary

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Doggos, birbs, cattos: Passwords to a secret Internet party
Memes have played a big role in cementing doggo/catto/birb languages within online communities (Meme 1: Nataia Roczon; meme 2: web source)


When I posted a rather goofy photograph of my dog on social media recently, a friend's comment stood out amidst the hailstorm of heart emoticons. '13/10 good boi', it read. I could have taken the vote of approval, referencing my dog as an exceptionally good boy, to be the characteristic enthusiasm of a dog person, but I knew the commenter to be an Internet trawler, the kind that delves into its bowels for the latest memes and trends. A study on his unusual compliment seemed to be in order. And thus, like Alice through the rabbit-hole, I fell headfirst into the curious world of doggos (dogs), cattos (cats, also cates/cades), birb/os (birds), baby sneks (snakes, also snoots, danger noodles)  carrot doggos (bunnies alias bunners/hoppboyes) — animals of the digital kingdom — around whom pet parents and lovers are fashioning a cyber language of cuteness extreme. Suddenly a part of online groups that spoke a different English altogether, I fumbled my way through an emerging lexicon of derived verbs, nouns and adjectives — one animal at a time.

Bork doggo, bork

A dog does a mlem (Instagram @amyfromwag); The author's dog doing a blop

If you are a part of this niche but steadily expanding online space, where groups /forums are created for the purpose of exchanging pet photographs, stories, advice and some hilarious memes, you know that doggos don't bark these days — they bork. The smol ones are called puppers/pupperinos, who are bigger than the yappers, but much smaller than a woofer, and they all do funny things with their tongues that can be identified variously as mlems, bleps and blops. Bamboozled yet? (another staple in doggo/catto lingo) There's more.

Boop that catto

Cat parent Amanda McDermat's cat Mister does a Screm; Linda Meed's cat Lilly shows off her toe beans

If you spot a portly feline lounging on your verandah, congratulations, hooman, you have been visited by a fatto catto. Don't be deceived now, fatto catto can run around as fast as a kitter (smol catto). You might even catch him chasing a birb, a cheese boye (mouse) or an elusive dot (laser beam).  If he's being a stinky cade (naughty), he might push those cute toe beans (paw pads) into your fish bowl, doing your blub-blub doggo (fish) a 'h*cking frighten'. Perhaps that'd be a good time to offer catto some good ol' (cat)nip, but be warned, too much of it will cause a derp (zoned out, silly-face). And if the cuteness of it all makes you want boop (affectionate tap on nose) him, go ahead, fren.

Henlo from birb world

Facebook user Ashley Honeycutt's 'fid'' doing a long boi; Sun conures are fondly known as Mangoes 

If you're stepping out for some groceries, leaving birb/o alone, make sure you've combed her fluffenchops (puffed-up feathers around the beak), and filled her cocohut (bird-huts made with coconuts) with luscious seebs (what else but seeds?) If possible, throw in some doomia (macademia nuts), but not too many. Greedy seeb-grabbing can turn a birb into a borb (fat bird) and a borb, into a perfectly round orb. Cute, but you'd want to put your fid's (feathered kid's) health first, right? Whether it's a Mango (sun conure), Watermelon (red masked lovebird) a N U D E (Naughty Dude — usually a black palm Cockatoo) or a Mouldy Avocado (green cheeked conure) that you're raising, good parenting will make sure your beeper (birb) cranes its neck, doing a long boi (spectacular stretch) every time you come home and kiss her 'Henlo!' (hello)

Why so cute?

Fluffenchops are puffed up feathers around a bird's beak (Instagram _@pepper_and_pals); Underfluffies are feathers located at the base of their tails

Some members of Facebook groups like Shocking Group of d e n g Catto and Birb (OvO") reckon that the cutesy restructuring of animal language have gained speed with the virality of the Doge and Henlo memes post 2010. But birb-owner Ken Weaver JR places greater emphasis on an inherent need for inventing words affectionate enough to encompass the average animal lovers' sentiment. Explaining the intentional over-use of parenthesis in his community he says, "It's used to emphasise things or actions, [ Eg: "Oh my gawd, Tweety is doing a (((((((DRUM))))))) with his beak!" ] and alternately, if used around a proper noun, it's akin to an un-spoken hug". 

[ Eg: "Aww, look at ((Tweety!)) He's doin' a heckin' cute!"] "Here, I'm emotionally smooshing on Tweety, because he's just adorable," Weaver points out, reasoning that the silly use of such sentence structure is to be on the bird/animal's level, if they were to have such anthropomorphic qualities as sentience, and the ability to type on Facebook. 

But what constitutes as the rules/grammar of a language that seems to be evolving by the day, and is for most parts, spontaneously generated in public forums? "Just keep in mind that it is the absolute hilarious thing where you purposely spell something wrong, and you'll be fine," reassures fellow birb-er Nooa Kuusi. Whether in response to the photo of a beautiful thicc gurl/boi (healthy cat or dog), or to pacify an a-n-g-e-r-y pupper, it would seem that these expressions, playfully fractured and reconfigured as sweeter versions of the parent words, serve to reduce stress, make members smile and connect with their pets.

A family of frens

Mock-serious rivalry between groups notwithstanding, (were cattos nicknamed cates/cades for some spin-off cuteness, or was it the conspiracy of catto-hating doggo people, who got a laugh out of evil/stinky cade memes? We'll never know) they have enough in common to tide over their differences. When a group member's beloved pet passes away, nobody cares if it was a catto or a snek, they send good vibes and respect for the baby that's 'crossed the rainbow bridge'. And if a member finds their stinky chicken or bad catto littering the house, they trust their online family to 'roast' (censure) them gently — the language shifts, but it's still one of pure affection. 

While some of the posts are for entertainment, others are shout-outs to community members asking how to litter-train a new kitter or care for a sick corgo (corgi), dilemmas fellow netizens quell spectacularly, with tips, tricks and good wishes 'typing' in by the dozen. A post on the Birb group thanks members for sponsoring a vet check up a user couldn't afford, just another instance of virtual kinship, forged around a love so overwhelming, it's built itself a borderless language. Only natural then, that the vocabulary has now started spilling over to the non-virtual plane — Facebook user Ashley Honeycutt admits to using birbspeak with her birds and her husband, sometimes even catching herself "using them at work, or with friends!"

Ebony-Rose Charlston's owl Bramble is an Orb; Jessica Oullette's thicc boi is called Fabian

Linguist speak 

Translator, linguist and professor of English literature Rimi B Chatterjee feels that this register of cuteified words, usually imagined by adding suffixes to the original word, has long existed orally among those with pets  — raise your hands if you've baby-talked to your pet (or your cousin's, if you, like me, lack restrain). The internet, for its part, has provided the language a written forum, so now non-pet-owners can experience, and in instances, use it as well. 

"Anyone who has raised a dog will know that they are exactly like children, responding to affectionate nonsense. Some birds too, are intensely social, just as cats have their social phases. Dogs in particular, seem to have evolved to decode human intonation, so it's only fair that conversations with them have their own special language" reasons Chatterjee, whose own dogs Babulal and Putlibai are famous for doing each other a frighten.

As I proceed to thank Sauradip Ghosh, the friend whose comment snowballed into my adventure in doggo/catto/birb-land, he casually asks me if I know that meme cades (cats) prefer Conk (Coke) to Bepis (Pepsi). Sighing, I brace myself for more lessons in the evolving animal tongue. 

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