The story behind that "It's gonna be MAY!" meme.
Ok, so this is wee late. I was planning to post it much earlier this month and completely forgot. Better late than never.
"Why Justin Timberlake Sings ‘May’ Instead of ‘Me’"
Linguistics and vocal styling converge in this late ’90s pop trend.
BY DAN NOSOWITZ NOVEMBER 10, 2016
The meme hit in 2012. A noble Tumblr artist first created it. It was picked up by BuzzFeed, followed by a flood of YouTube uploads. In 2016, you’ll see tweets about it. Justin Timberlake has acknowledged it with typical good humor, deigning to sing the meme when asked—even now, more than a decade and a half later.
It’s not super fun to explain a meme, but we kind of have to, so: The “it’s gonna be may” meme is a reference to NSYNC’s 2000 hit “It’s Gonna Be Me,” in which lead singer Timberlake memorably sings the title of the song as “it’s gonna be may.” But I think what makes the meme resonate is that “it’s gonna be may” is just one example of a linguistic tendency that was weirdly popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Think of Mandy Moore’s “Can-day,” Britney Spears growling “oh bay-bay bay-bay,” Gwen Stefani chanting “hey bay-bay hey bay-bay HEY.” The trend to turn the “ee” sound into “ay” continued for years, maybe most memorably in Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” (Cray-zay, really.) This isn’t one guy’s vocal quirk: this is a trend, maybe a virus. Why did all these singers change their vowels in that particular way?
This sound change is happening here in Ireland with one syllable words. "Real" is pronounced "rayl", "heap" is "hayp". At first, it was seen as a funny joke to mock those who talked luh-eek day nevur went ta shkool a shingul day in der luh-eevs but now it's not uncommon to "be aytin chips instead of eating them.
I LOVE this article! (And I'm officially tweeting it.) There was a fascinating Hidden Brain episode about a similar linguistic quirk that has recently emerged – adding "uh" to the end of words for emphasis. (Like when people say "babe-UH" or "I know-UH."
But don't get me started about how they argue that it's literally not wrong to say literally. Apparently contronyms are everywhere, some just bother us more than others. Literally.
O.O Amazing timing. I was just contemplating my appreciation for contronyms two or so days ago, along with my wonder over the phenomenon of initial stress-derived nouns. Language, it's seriously cool.
I see that you did tweet it. Another post atop a wealthy pile of interesting things you've tweeted there. Glad to have contributed. :)
Thank you for sharing this interesting article! In these songs, I didn't notice these trends at all - I thought that it was a common trait of some particular sort of American accent - hangs head in linguistic shame... I can tell you that here in Australia this isn't a phoneme-enon that's very widespread, /iː/ is still going strong down under :)