I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase “that’s what she said,” but I know I was definitely amused. I thought it was clever and had a feeling it would last for awhile. Seven years and a lot of heads in the gutter later, the phrase is still going strong.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, this is how it works: Someone says something that can be turned around into a perverted statement. For example, one person might be talking about a dog and exclaim, “It’s so big!” and someone next to them will retort, “That’s what she said!” in a self-pleasing manner because the phrase is fun to say when it actually fits into a conversation. The phrase was popularized by The Office main character Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell). In the episode, he is being tested to see if he can actually go without saying it, since obviously it is obviously offensive and inappropriate in the office setting. The meme was replicated shortly after airing on the show by people everywhere.
The meme purely exists in the realm of ideas. Since it is a saying, there is not a behavioral component. “That’s what she said” has sort of taken on a life of its own. It is no longer related to the show and people probably don’t even know that’s where it emerged from. The variation aspect that Dawkins would attribute to this occurrence is evident. For one thing, the phrase first came into existence when Mike Myers said it in the movie Wayne’s World. Here’s how it went down:
Garth: “Hey are you through yet? Cause I’m getting tired of holding this.”
Wayne: “That’s what she said.”
After that, The Office got hold of it and the meme spread like wildfire. Since the phrase is so short and to the point, it’s kind of hard to make changes to it, so it hasn’t variated that much. Other Internet memes have been created such as:
The memes here can be considered to be in the same memeplex. Variations have been made with the phrase and transformed into their own. I think this meme has been so widely spread because people love sexual innuendos. If you think about it, the phrase was needed. There are so many times where someone says something that could be taken as a perverted statement and “that’s what she said” is so applicable that it is funny.
Dawkins raises a good question. She questions “just how much pattern and order [are] inevitably [sprung] up in the universe even without selection; the role of historical accidents in shaping the path of life, and whether evolution will always tend to produce certain kinds of things.” How can anyone predict what’s going to be popular or not? There’s no way the writers of Wayne’s World or The Office could have known that the phrase “that’s what she said” was still going to be around today. This idea can be considered through the theory of memes. The human race is so different yet oftentimes everyone is bound together by a similar interest in certain phrases. It’s fun learning new phrases and trends that are occurring in our current society. It’s a way for people to come together and bond over them. The only potential criticism I could think of would be that virtually every idea is included in meme theory. There should be sub-categories or something that distinguishes certain memes from each other.