Did you hear the one about the woman who slept with a guy, and then... ah, you know what? Let’s let her tell it:
Crazy times, Annette! Although, wait, didn’t we hear a similar story from Nancy recently?
Or maybe we heard it from @VeraHainel. Or @KarenWillem. Or @SylviaNeel. In fact, Twitter shows that this joke has been tweeted out more than 70 times. The real author is, in fact, writer Alice White, who tweeted her tale in 2013:
“It is actually a true story,” she tells Maxim, “because I was horrible when I was 19.” And that bra, she says, didn't even fit.
White is, of course, by no means the worst victim of joke-stealing—a hot topic now, thanks to the brouhaha over The Fat Jew. But she is representative of a far more common type of victim: Unlike stand-up comedians who get ripped off by other stand-up comedians, White is, like many, just a person who tweeted out something funny, and then lost control of those 140 golden characters.
How does it happen? White’s tweet got almost 300 retweets, and the same day she sent it, she also got her first copycat: @MsCityRedGirl tweeted the bit as her own, and the following day, three more accounts did. At some point, the joke stopped being tweeted out by real people and entered the canon of pretty Twitter bots. Amanda Hess at Slaterecently explained this strange breed:
Some of Twitter’s most pervasive plagiarists are the generic joke Twitter accounts designed to look like blandly pretty girls with less-than-fully-realized personalities. These accounts borrow avatars from the emoji keyboard or Disney princess movies; they tweet constantly, even at times of day when a real teen girl would be in class or sleeping; and almost everything they say is plagiarized.
These fake, pretty jokesters have real followers. That’s how I found White's joke in the first place: A real person I follow retweeted one of these bots, thinking the bra-stealing tale it told was original. But White says she’s also been ripped off by plenty of actual people before: “Occasionally you get someone stealing, and one of their mates will comment: ‘You’re so funny. This is so you!!’ and the thief replies ‘I know [cry laugh emoji],’" she says. "That’s what shocks me the most—that false pride must be such a weird thing for them to deal with. All attention is good attention for some people though, even if it’s not their actual thoughts. The internet is strange.”
Twitter offers a solution to victims of joke theft: They can fill out this form, reporting the theft as a copyright infringement, and Twitter will take the ripoff down. But that’s hardly practical for someone whose joke is getting lifted anew every day.
Maybe it’s karmic punishment for White’s own theft. But really, what were the chances the other woman was coming back for that bra?
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