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Ermahgerd! The Internet's Favorite Nerdy Girl Is One of Us

Ermahgerd! The Internet's Favorite Nerdy Girl Is One of Us

Ermahgerd! The Internet's Favorite Nerdy Girl Is One of Us

Maggie Goldenberger, who was vacationing with her then-girlfriend when she discovered her online fame, takes her notoriety in stride.

Ermahgerd — she’s one of us!

The woman whose image has become the popular “Ermahgerd” Internet meme has revealed her identity, along with a mention of a same-sex relationship.

Maggie Goldenberger, a nurse in her 20s who lives in Phoenix, discovered three years ago that a joke photo she took when she was about 11 became the basis for the awkward-girl meme, Vanity Fair reports on its website. She “was in the middle of a six-month trip to India and the Philippines with her then-girlfriend” and doing a weekly Internet check-in at a cybercafé when she received a message from a friend who had seen the image, according to the story.

“It was a picture of Goldenberger when she was much younger, around 11 years old, wearing unfortunate pigtails, an ugly vest, and a grotesque expression: eyes wide, eyebrows pitched sharply skyward, chin drawn inward, mouth agape, and retainer-clad teeth bared like a hissing harpy or cat,” Vanity Fair notes. She was holding three books from R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series of young-adult horror stories, and the caption read, “Ermahgerd Gersberms.”

That wasn’t Goldenberger’s usual look. When she was in middle school, she and a friend loved dressing up in bizarre costumes and taking Polaroid pictures of each other, she told VF. She “put on the vest, hoisted her hair up into intentionally dorky pigtails — she never wore them like that otherwise — brandished the chosen books, and pulled an intentionally hideous face for the camera,” the site reports. “Normally, she hardly ever wore her retainer like she was supposed to, but it felt right for the character: she put it on for the shoot.”

Some years later, Goldenberger’s friend uploaded the picture to MySpace and Facebook, and a Reddit user found it in a public Facebook gallery and shared it on a comment thread. Another Reddit user added the language quirk for the captions, which amounts to “the strangulation of almost every vowel sound into an ‘er,’” VF explains. It has since inspired hundreds of spin-offs.

Goldenberger hasn’t been particularly bothered by her Internet fame, feeling that although she didn’t create the meme, she’s in on the joke, as she was playing a character. “It was a middle-schooler’s perspective of what funny is, so I’m always surprised when adults are such fans,” she told VF. “It’s essentially making fun of a nerdy girl for being excited about books.”

She’s found some of the variations pretty funny, especially one with her face superimposed on the Titanic and the caption “Emahgerd Erceberg.”

However, she wasn’t happy that someone found a picture of her — as herself, not a character — in a bikini on a beach in Hawaii and put it online, where it attracted some negative comments.

“I have no idea who did that,” she told Vanity Fair. “And if I'm going to have a bikini shot floating around on the Internet, I’d like to be spray tanned and under a waterfall somewhere.”

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Trudy Ring