Netiquette: What Do You Do When You're An Accidental Joke Thief?

Ever think of a really awesome Tagg Romney pun, and then realize that about 500 other people on Twitter made the same one? On a scale of 1 to seppuku, how embarassed should you be?

Late last night, as news broke that Mitt Romney had chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate, an interesting detail emerged that Tagg Romney was the one to break the bad news to the other two frontrunners. I saw this when BuzzFeed editor John Herrman tweeted it, and a clever play on Tagg's name popped into my head.

Oh, how clever I am! So witty, so droll.

But then - oh no. I saw that BuzzFeed Sports editor Kevin Lincoln had beaten me to the joke. Even worse, he wasn't the only one who made that joke responding to Herrman:

Oh good grief, everyone was making this same joke (this list isn't even close to exhaustive):

The joke reached Maximun Saturation Point when people started talking about how sick they were of seeing the not-very-creative joke multiple times.

The final Street FighterMortal Kombat cry to "finish him" of the joke is when someone simply tweets a link to the search results for that joke. In this case, the joke's cold grim reaper was @nostrich:

I usually avoid tweeting about breaking news for this exact reason. As the sage @dogboner once tweeted, "whenever a celebrity dies twitter turns into this big group of people all trying to jam the same turd into one toilet."

This isn't the first time this kind of thing happens, but it's a very new Twitter-specific thing. You don't see joke duplication on Facebook. Partly because Twitter is the place for bon mots and irreverent snickers; Facebook is the place for serious discussion or emotional appeals. Also, people don't react immediately to breaking news on Facebook. All these "Tagg, not it" jokes happened within a few minutes of each other - the failed jokesters had no idea other people were making the joke. In my case, I hadn't scrolled up to the top of my timeline yet before responding with that joke, I didn't see Kevin Lincoln's tweet, which came first.

Once a joke is duplicated, it becomes 110% less funny (joke math is very conceptual). Even worse, it might appear that your obvious joke duplicating is joke theft, not an accident.

So what to do? Delete your tweet? Argue that you made it first (if you actually did)? Or deny deny deny and claim you hadn't seen the others?

In my case, the only way I can deal with this humiliation is to write a lengthy blog post about it.

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