Like everything bad on the internet,
uwu started somewhere. Brian Feldman dug into it for his newsletter BNet – turns out, the first recorded usage of
uwu is from a piece of Yu-Gi-Oh fan fiction, adding yet more weight to my belief that fanfic communities spawn at least a third of everything that becomes a thing online.
Feldman makes an interesting argument, though. The
uwu in question was used in a self-effacing author note:
Wheee! Sarah/ryoulover4ever was my 200th reviewer! I’m sorry this took so long! -/smacks self/- Again, feel free to throw squids and fish at me. UwU I deserve it, I know.
Feldman argues that, in this context,
uwu wouldn’t make sense if it was being used in a performatively-cute way. It doesn’t jive with the tone. It’s closer to confounded face emoji in tone, right down to the w-shaped mouth.
All of this leads me to theorize that the oldest known use of
uwudeploys it in a dramatically different context than the one we are now used to. Which is fine, because internet language is rarely prescriptive — there is never one exact right way to use ambiguous pictographs like emoji and emoticons. In fact, that’s how they derive their power: allowing the reader to use the surrounding conversational context to figure out exactly what they mean.
Still, I’m not quite sure how
uwumight have gone from a grimace to a cute face. Regardless, kinda neat.
uwu has changed. It’s evolved. That’s to be expected, really: anything that becomes popular will, eventually, become something new.
Who knows what it’ll become next. It may even turn into something even more annoying and more powerful.