Copypasta: Text or data (such as lines of code) copied and pasted from one website to another. Also a verb: to copy text or code from one site and paste it into another. Coined from copy plus paste; “pasta” is pronounced like the Italian food. Possibly influenced by spaghetti code, a term from the early days of programming that describes a hard-to-understand mass of code. (See this 2008 Urban Dictionary entry.) According to Know Your Meme, copypasta “shares some characteristics with spam in the sense they’re both unsolicited (and often considered a nuisance),” but “copypastas are mainly spread through human operators whereas the latter is automatically generated by electronic messaging systems.”
Copypasta is documented in the Winter 2011 installment of “Among the New Words” in American Speech, a linguistic quarterly (subscription or article fee required). The theme of the article, by Ben Zimmer and Charles E. Carson, is descriptors for Internet memes.
The earliest citation Zimmer and Carson found for copypasta is an August 2006 post on the Wasted Talent forum:
Then proceeded to spam the number for HOURS with memes and copypasta (large ridiculous stories that are copied and pasted (hence copypasta) over and over again)…
Copypasta was eventually picked up for non-Internet references, as in this 2009 article in the automotive blog Speed:Sport:Life about BMW designer Christopher Bangle:
He has saved BMW from a Jaguar-esque retro-fate, re-imagined the way cars are styled in the twenty-first century, and lived to see his critics either dwindle into irrelevance or voluntarily engage in shameless “copypasta” of his ideas.
Since then, references to copypasta have dispensed with definitions and quotation marks. Here’s a BoingBoing post dated April 21, 2012:
A Washington Post blogger resigned after plagiarizing others’ work on two separate occasions. The copypasta, however, was done under working conditions that make the newspaper look worse than her.
Other terms in the “memes” edition of “Among the New Words” include honey badger, rickroll, Advice Animal, manbaby, Teabonics, and Swede. Two have been featured previously here at Fritinancy: Droste effect and photobomb.
(Hat tip to Dustbury, who introduced me to the copypasta concept.)