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The recent skyrocketing and fall of GameStop stock has brought several financial terms into public consciousness, such as “short squeezes” and “put options” and “order flows.” Among these, one stands out — “tendie” — because it doesn’t derive from hedge funds but from 4chan, that puerile and vile but also sometimes darkly funny corner of the Internet, where the slang for “chicken tender” has come to mean any kind of reward or thing to be desired.

On Reddit’s now-famous WallStreetBets forum — tagline: “Like 4chan found a Bloomberg terminal” — “tendies” are investment returns, the fundamental stock market payoff. Popeye’s, purveyor of literal chicken tenders, has hopped on the buzz, offering customers free tendies, the edible kind, with a $5 purchase.


What’s going on here? The answer is in 4chan’s user base, which I’ve come to know well as an ethnographer studying the platform and another of its popular exports, Internet harassment. Historically, 4chan’s typical profile skews male, nerdy, maladjusted, sexually stunted, and disarmingly self-aware. This is especially true of 4chan’s “r9k” forum, where “tendie” emerged. Over the years, these 4channers have embraced a shorthand acronym to describe themselves: NEET, meaning a grown human “not in education, employment, or training.”

The NEET man-baby throws tantrums, resists chores, and earns “good-boy points” (GBP). And like many a petulant child, the NEET hews to another stereotype: the picky eater. He likes just one food: chicken tenders. Tendies.

“I’ve been a good boy and saved up 50 GBP this week . . . now I can dine on tendies ALL WEEKEND” begins one 4chan riff from 2015. Like so much that emerges on 4chan, the tendie story, passed like oral tradition from one storyteller to the next, escalates in absurdity in each new telling.

Keith Gill, 34, one of the WallStreetBets investors, says he made $33 million in the GameStop rally. While market watchers process whether Wall Street is vulnerable to another siege from Reddit, Gill and others have walked away with more tendies than they could ever eat.


David Zax is a senior consultant at the research firm ReD Associates, where he focuses on aberrant Internet behavior.