(CNN)Semantic satiation is the phenomenon in which a word or phrase is repeated so often it loses its meaning. But it also becomes something ridiculous, a jumble of letters that feels alien on the tongue and reads like gibberish on paper.
How 'thoughts and prayers' went from common condolence to cynical meme
"Thoughts and prayers" has reached that full semantic satiation.
For the last few years, after every mass shooting, the term immediately trends on social platforms. It's not a good kind of trending: Among the earnest pleas for social and legislative action, the aftermath of each successive shooting inspires more and more memes and cynical jokes.
In one highly-shared image that circulated after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in February, "Thoughts and Prayers" is imprinted on the side of a garbage truck. Another meme shows an empty van. "Excellent news," it reads. "The first truckload of your thoughts and prayers has just arrived."
Jokes, mere hours after a deadly shooting? To the voices behind the dark humor, the persistence of "thoughts and prayers" is the real joke.