Not all expressions of laughter online are funny. Kek is an online term with similar meanings to LOL or haha, used originally by gamers, but has since taken a controversial turn.
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.
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 supporters of Donald Trump. By 2016, Pepe, Trump, and Kek had become linked.
Due to the alt-right’s hijacking of the term, kek has become linked to the alt-right movement’s ties to white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other hateful ideologies. This development has been much to the dismay of gamers who enjoyed using kek as an expression of laughter.
Our next Asian-language-inspired form of laughter, however, remains squeaky-clean.