That Miss Teen USA Map Question Meme

Lauren Caitlin Upton’s embarrassing moment at the Miss Teen USA pageant (see previous entry) has taken on a life of its own, as her garbled response to a question about cartographic literacy has become the latest Internet meme. And, since the Internet is powered by Schadenfreude and no gag goes unbeaten-to-death, responses and homages are already popping up. See, for example, the Tube Map for Miss South Carolina and Maps for Us, which takes Miss Upton’s plea at (ironic) face value: “And we believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and the Iraq everywhere … like. Such as. And we believe you should donate maps to this cause.” (Via Deadspin.) Oh dear.

Update, Sept. 1: On Salon’s Machinist blog, an argument that the question Upton was asked — or rather its premise — is wrong. “Remember, people in the survey were trying to place countries on unlabeled maps. That is, they were the sort of maps nobody ever uses, maps that, indeed, run contrary to the very aim of cartography. A map is a reference object; we make maps precisely so that we don’t have to memorize where things are, so that we can, instead, look up where things are.”