It's from (evolutionary) biology, but I didn't realize at all that Richard Dawkins, now more famous than ever, had coined it. The wikipedia entry defines it like this, which sounds pretty reasonable to me:
- Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity.
- A self-propagating unit of cultural evolution having a resemblance to the gene (the unit of genetics).
Thinking back to Jan Freeman's column where peevologist was first used, she wrote:
New usages don't wait for vacancies in the vocabulary; they just show up at work and make themselves useful. When one succeeds, we're good at explaining it after the fact: We needed just that word, with just that nuance, we say, whether it's Shakespeare's puke or the 300-year-old bye-bye or today's dumbing down.Even after the fact, I'm not quite sure I get the success of this one. In sharp contrast to peevologist.
Had some glitch on getting the URL for the image, but if you do an image search, it's instantly findable.