Internet memes tend to follow a predictable life cycle in which they go from underground to mainstream to T-shirts that uncles buy their nephews for Christmas, all in the space of about three weeks.
Memes all eventually die out, but every now and again they come back with a bang.
Enter 'Karen', an internet meme that has been around for years, but which has started trending once again during lockdown. Broadly speaking, the Karen meme refers to the type of woman who always asks to speak to the manager.
Karen, or at least the earliest iteration of Karen, is the nosy neighbour, the helicopter mum and the nagging wife. She's uptight, obnoxious and entitled, and she wields her citizen and consumer rights like a knife.
In cinematic terms, Karen is the gossip-mongering Marge in Edward Scissorhands. She's Brinda, the character played by Maya Rudolph in Sisters, who insists her friends don't use the actors' real names when they're watching Game Of Thrones.
Karens have a very specific aesthetic - white pedal pusher trousers, an aggressively graduated blonde bob that looks like a helmet and a permanent pucker of disapproval. They are also said to share a fondness for home decor with the motto 'Live, Laugh, Love'.
In recent months, the Karen meme has evolved and mutated and while she's still very much a busy-body, the epithet now encapsulates certain pandemic personalities.
Karen is the N95 mask-wearing, stockpiling know-it-all who has called the gardaí three times to report the suspiciously joyous BBQs her neighbours are having. Otherwise, she's vehemently opposed to social distancing, like the 'Karen' who went viral after posting a video in which she cried about having to wear a mask.
In other memes, generally from the US, Karen is homophobic, transphobic and racist. There was a huge Karen resurgence this week when a white woman was filmed calling the police on a black birdwatcher in Central Park.
When he asked her to put her dog on a leash, she pulled the ultimate Karen trump card and threatened to call the police. "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she says.
There are countless theories on why the name Karen has become a pejorative for this type of woman. Some say it stems from a Reddit user who posted furious diatribes about his ex-wife, Karen; others say it derives from the film Mean Girls. If you ask me, it's the onomatopoeia that makes it stick: ka-sounds are explosive (kapow, kaboom, ka-ching…), but I digress.
Since the Central Park incident, most agree that Karens tend to be white and privileged women. It's also generally agreed that Karens are middle-aged, which means they are either perimenopausal or menopausal. And while this might seem beside the point, it's actually of paramount importance.
Like it or not, all women experience irritability, flashes of anger and mood swings in their 40s and 50s, which means there's a little bit of Karen in all of us, just waiting to be unleashed. Still, there's no excuse for bad behaviour, just as there's no stopping a Karen when the red mist descends.
Here's how to tell if you've become too Karen for your own good.
1. You regularly pen strongly-worded letters of complaint to service providers and local authorities. Vintage Karens sign off hand-written missives with 'mise le meas'. Modern Karens prefer emails peppered with ALL CAPS, underline and a profusion of exclamation marks!!!!!
2. You have confused the Parents' WhatsApp group with an anonymous tip-off line where you have the power to get teachers sacked and students expelled.
3. You take great pride in knowing the NATO phonetic alphabet off by heart and you can often be heard screaming "K for Kilo!" at "inept" call centre staff.
4. You regularly threaten restaurant and hotel managers with TripAdvisor.
5. You frequently find reason to use the words 'despicable', 'disgraceful' and 'disgusting'.
6. You're a property tyre-kicker and you have no shame in viewing your neighbours' homes when they come on the market.
7. You have strong opinions on people's parenting skills - and you're not afraid to share them.
8. You regularly start emails with "as per my last email".