ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

Emahgerd, nerstergia!

One of the greatest memes to ever grace the annals of the Internet, known as Berk, Gersberms, or (my preference) Ermahgerd, finally has the back story we've all been awaiting. Vanity Fair managed to track down the pigtailed, grimacing kid in the photo, and they caught up with her on just what exactly sudden internet fame has wrought. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot to say.

Here are the most ermahgerd-worthy tidbits we learned from the interview.

The Ermahgerd girl is a 26-year-old nurse named Maggie

In 2012, Maggie Goldenberger discovered her likeness was tearing through the Internet. And, of course, it wasn't one of the photos that was deemed profile picture-worthy. No, it was one from her tween days when she was in fourth or fifth grade, where she's holding up some immediately recognizable Goosebumps books and gawking at the camera. The photo

Though it's a less than flattering photo, Phoenix-dwelling Maggie is taking her internet fame in stride. She's nothing like the meme subjects who have used their platforms to cash in, or others who lawyer up to get them taken down.

I just can't believe this is my 15 minutes of fame—I was hoping it would come in another form. But I guess you have to take what you can get.

The guy who first popularized the image has no connection to Maggie

Call it the beauty (or the horror) of the internet. Jeff Davis, also known on Reddit as xWavy, stumbled across the picture and immediately thought it had the potential for worldwide hilarity.

I pretty much just found the picture randomly.

He was only 16 years old at the time and posted the picture with the caption, "Just a book owners smile [sic]."

Although Davis found the image while doing some serious Facebook creeping, it was a 33-year-old former fraud investigator who breathed life into the remarkably meme by giving the image voice. In an email exchange with Vanity Fair, he explained:

The level of excitement in her face, the braces, and the outfit just screamed awkward tween years. The voice kind of popped into my head as the icing on the awkward cake.

The inspiration? Lisping Shelly from South Park if you must ask.

See also:

R.L. Stine just doesn't get it

Once the captions "ERMAHGERD" AND "GERSBERMS MAH FAVRIT BERKS" were added in that unmistakable Impact font, a viral sensation was born. Of course, this quickly made its way into popular culture, and before long, people were asking R.L. Stine, beloved author of the Goosebumps books, his thoughts on the phenomenon.

Sadly, he's just not a fan. Check out this back-and-forth with a reporter at the National Book Festival:

Interviewer: Do you know the meme ‘Ermahgerd’? It’s one of the most popular memes on the Internet this past year.

R.L. Stine: Yes. You’re the third person to ask me about it today.

Interviewer: Will you pose for a picture with me wearing this Ermahgerd wig?

R.L. Stine: No. No, I will not. I have to say, I don’t really understand what’s funny about it.

Interviewer: I don’t know, man, it’s just ‘Ermahgerd’!

Which maybe is for the best because, as it turns out, Maggie wasn't a huge fan of Goosebumps. The books were simply props, and well-picked ones at that.

She's actually playing a character named 'Pervy Dale' in the infamous picture

[Credit: Maggie Goldenberger via Vanity Fair]
[Credit: Maggie Goldenberger via Vanity Fair]

While most of us love this picture for capturing an authentic slice of a tween awkward stage, Maggie's pose, clothing, and face were all intentionally absurd. She and her friends liked to get together and try on outlandish costumes before posing for Polaroid pictures.

It was a middle schooler’s perspective of what funny is, so I’m always surprised when adults are such fans. It’s essentially making fun of a nerdy girl for being excited about books. . . . So what? I'm always baffled that it still comes up three years later.

Okay, so a young kid's sense of humor is equivalent to mine. I'm oddly okay with that.

Although a retainer-crammed grimace is not what most people would want the world to know them by, Maggie is totally a peace with her 'Ermahgerd' incarnation because it is essentially a character. Instead of the internet laughing at her authentic tween self, she feels like they are laughing together over a ridiculous image she basically art directed. .

One of her favorite variations pays tribute to the Titanic

Proving once again that the greatest aspect of this meme are the endless possibilities.

Long live Ermahgerd!

What's Your Favorite Meme?

(Source: Vanity Fair)


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