Jul 7 2017 - 4:39 pm

What does Kappa mean?

Kappa meme's origins explained.
News Writer
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Image via Twitch

Kappa has become a part of language.

The black-and-white emoticon of a slightly smirking man bubbled up from the depths of the streaming community in 2011 and quickly became ubiquitous in online gaming circles. But even if you've never used livestreaming site Twitch before, you may have seen the phrase used online. It's everywhere.

Still, there's a good chance you don't know what it means. Maybe you're just not embedded in gaming culture, or have been too embarrassed to ask someone. Either way, Kappa is easy to understand: It just indicates sarcasm, irony, or a joke. And while millions use the expression few know how it came to be. Here's everything you need to know about the biggest meme on Twitch.

Origins

Kappa is a grayscale photo of Josh DeSeno, a former employee of Justin.tv. If you use Twitch, then Justin.tv would appear very familiar to you. It was created in 2007 to allow anyone to broadcast videos online. "Livestreaming" as it was known, never really caught on (except as a way to broadcast pirated television shows). But one part of Justin.tv became hugely popular: Its gaming section.

That section would later split off into a separate website, Twitch.Though Twitch was originally owned by Justin.tv, the roles were reversed when traffic to the latter fizzled out into irrelevance in 2014. Twitch was now the corporate parent—and quickly becoming one of the most popular websites on the planet.

DeSeno had been working on the original chat client for Justin.tv during its early days when several Justin.tv employees added emotes to the client representing emotions ranging from smugness to glee. DeSeno added a grayscale photograph of himself and, according to him, it was "popular right away." That may partially be because of the name, DeSeno suggests, because it's a "fun word and it's easy to type."

DeSeno chose the name "Kappa" for the emoticon because he was a big fan of Japanese culture. In Japanese folklore, a Kappa is a creature that lures people to lakes and pulls them in. The story was used by the Japanese to teach kids about the dangers of rivers and lakes and how dangerous they can be if you get too close to them. How that relates to his intended use of the emote isn't exactly clear. And anyway, it quickly gained a life of its own.

How popular is Kappa?

Kappa is the one of the most popular emoticons on Twitch, and is likely the most reproduced photo of a human being on the planet. It is used over 1 million times every day in the site's chats and shows no signs of letting up. Those numbers are so high partially because Twitch users don't just post one kappa at a time. Like a lot of emotes on the site, it's sometimes spammed relentlessly in. There's no better way to emphasize just how kappa something is than by absolutely flooding the chat with the image.

Adding together all of the different variants of Kappa on Twitch, the emoticon as a whole is used about two million times every day.

What are the different variants of Kappa?

As Kappa grew in popularity, artists and Twitch streamers created variants of the popular emoticon.

One of the most popular variants is KappaPride, a rainbow version that was created after the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were allowed to marry in 2015.

KappaRoss was made in honor of the late Bob Ross' 73rd birthday and the official launch of the Creative Directory on Twitch, which allowed people to stream their creative process on the platform.

The emoticon is a mashup of the popular Kappa emote with Bob's distinctive hair. Twitch also ran a nonstop marathon of all the episodes of "The Joy of Painting" on the bobross Twitch channel.

Are you a fan of Dota 2? Then you will probably know about Keepo, the combination of Kappa and Meepo, the popular hero from the game. As you expect, the emoticon is usually used in Dota 2 live streams and peaks during the Dota 2's The International. The emoticon is also used to troll League of Legends streamers.

KappaClaus was created for Christmas 2015. The variant of Kappa is mainly used around the holiday period or when a streamer plays a Christmas or winter-themed game. It is one of the least popular variants, but spikes during winter.


Now that you know all about Kappa, it's time to get out there and start spam those message boards. 

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