Where does kek come from?
The expression kek, used in the context of gaming, originated from Blizzard’s 1998 real-time strategy game Starcraft. The game did not support the Korean writing system, so the Korean equivalent to the English “hahaha,” or ㅋㅋㅋ, became written as “kekeke,” and soon became an in-joke to gamers who didn’t speak Korean.
A later Blizzard game, the 2004 massive multiplayer World of Warcraft, furthered kekeke. In the game, players can be on one of two opposing teams, the Horde or Alliance, who are unable to talk directly to each other through the chat box. When a player of the Horde team, which contains the Orc character type, types in the popular acronym LOL, the other team sees it as KEK, apparently programmed by Blizzard as a humorous reference to Starcraft. By 2005, kek was defined on Urban Dictionary as “LOL in Orcish,” alluding to this World of Warcraft use. Kek spread virally from that point on, with usage steadily increasing over time as it became a popular alternative to LOL among gamers.
In 2013, the kek meme then became linked to Topkek, a preexisting Turkish cupcake brand, when it was discovered by a 4chan user named prime minister face. Before this, the brand itself had nothing to do with the meme, since kek simply means “cake” in Turkish. Topkek is sometimes used for something that is extremely amusing, with kek itself extended as a noun for “hilarity” or “banter.”
As it turns out, Kek is also the name of an ancient Egyptian deity often represented as a humanoid figure with the head of a frog. In 2015, an anonymous user on 4chan posted information and pictures of Kek, with users comparing the god to Pepe the Frog, an innocent cartoon character that has, since the 2016 US presidential election, been turned into a hate symbol by the alt-right (a group of far-right white supremacists) and supporters of Donald Trump. By 2016, Pepe, Trump, and Kek became linked. After a 4chan thread titled “Kek worship general,” the Pepe version of Kek became the satirical “god of the alt-right.” When Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, many alt-right internet users posted the phrase “Praise Kek” across the internet. They also created a fictional religion, the Cult of Kek, and the fictional country the Republic of Kekistan, complete with a flag, whose Kekistanis worship Pepe.
Who uses kek?
Due to the alt-right’s hijacking of the term kek, it has become linked to the movement’s ties to white supremacy, anti-semitism, and other hateful ideologies, with Kek, usually in some form of Pepe, being used mockingly as a figure of worship. This development is much to the dismay of gamers who enjoyed using kek as an expression of laughter.
“Also "Kek" stopped being funny in like 2005.
Kekistanis are the 'How do you do, fellow kids' of Internet memers.”
@Sarochi1 Twitter (May 10, 2017)
“You cannot stop the Army of Kek! I will not bow. I will not break. My fellow kekistanis. Will you follow me one last time?”
@TheArmyOfKek Twitter (May 24, 2017)
“The post urged 4channers to join a Discord forum dubbed 'Operation: Marine Le Kek,' where at any given moment up to about 450 participants are conducting meme 'raids' to hype their candidate and attack her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron.”
Josh Harkinson, “Inside Marine Le Pen's "Foreign Legion" of American Alt-Right Trolls,” Mother Jones (May 3, 2017)