Dude, the word "dude" is taking over our already ravaged culture. The spiraling descent of verbal discourse in the English language has been accelerated by this brain-dead epithet. Ten years ago, only Californians and Ninja Turtles addressed each other this way. As surely as a plague will spread, however, the dude "meme" has infected our popular conversation.

What is a meme? It is the cultural equivalent of a gene, a linguistic or behavioral replicator that thrives by getting itself copied. The meme was first proposed by Richard Dawkins in his book, "The Selfish Gene." True to the evolutionary perspective, he asserts that there are no "good" or "bad" memes, only memes which will be more or less successful in reproducing themselves through us.

We of the Jinx Project cannot afford the luxury of Dawkins' objectivity. Just as the gene for alcoholism or mental illness is decidedly "bad" for the person or population that inherits it, there are memes which are destructive and crippling to our culture and our mission.

Genes, of course, are passed not only vertically, through sexual reproduction, but horizontally, through the transmission of viruses which inject their DNA into living cells. There are viral memes as well, memes which come to us not from our inherited culture but which arise spontaneously out of our current interactions. Such a viral meme is "Dude." Specifically, "Dude" as a form of address is a virus which can kill a man culturally as surely as Hepatitis can kill him physically. "Dude, what happened?" "Dude, I just got some!" "Dude, what's up, Dude?" Such phrases are not merely symptoms of an inferior mind – they are the causes of the mind's inferiority. Every time the dude meme is copied in a brain it takes the place of healthier, more benign but less aggressive memes. Bright, intelligent men and women who had previously been eloquent speakers, once infected, become the hapless transmitters of this selfish meme. They become carriers, disease vectors, human mosquitoes.

Our refusal to say dude is all that separates us from the brutes and the surfers. Yet our brains are hard-wired to imitate, especially when exposed to so virulent a meme. It is only vigilance and stoicism, a rigid determination to choose every word with care, that can protect us from becoming sandal-wearing, resin-burning, mentally retarded dude-sayers. Let us demonstrate that vigilance for the sake of our language, our culture, and our very minds.

Dude, do it for the Jinx Project.