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Who Invented “That’s What She Said”?

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There is no clear origin for the phrase “That’s what she said,” but it has been around for more than a century, predating TV shows like The Office that have popularized it in recent years. The phrase was likely born out of the bawdy humor of vaudeville and burlesque shows in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It gained renewed popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to shows like Saturday Night Live and movies like Austin Powers. However, it wasn’t until Michael Scott’s frequent use of the phrase on The Office that it became a cultural phenomenon. Today, “That’s what she said” is a ubiquitous part of the vernacular, used to add humor to otherwise mundane conversations.

Welcome to the world of “That’s what she said”, a phrase that has become as famous as any other popular catchphrase. This simple yet catchy sentence has made its way into our everyday conversations, social media posts, and even advertising campaigns. But have you ever wondered where this ubiquitous phrase came from and who can be credited with its invention? In this article, we explore the origins of the phrase and try to dig deeper into its history.

Who Invented “That’s What She Said”

The turn of phrase “that’s what she said” is a ubiquitous expression that defines an entire generation’s sense of humor. It is a comedic response to a comment, joke or innuendo that is related to sex and frequently followed by an innuendo-laden punchline. Over the years, this phrasal template has gained momentum and entered mainstream culture, almost becoming a meme. Although “that’s what she said” has been on everyone’s lips recently, the origins of the phrase are murky, the exact creator somewhat of a mystery.

The Origins of the Phrase

The phrase “that’s what she said” has been around for over a century, originating as a British slang expression in the early 1900s. It was commonly used by dock workers and seafarers, but its use was not sexual in nature at the time. It was simply a phrase used to confirm what had just been said.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the expression can be traced back to a 1929 book The Captain’s Lady and 32 Other Stories by author Richard Haliburton. In the book, the phrase was used by a character without any sexual allusion, saying “Somebody said ‘Queer things sometimes happen; I’m very glad they do.’ ‘That’s what she said,’ remarked Sally.”

However, some have speculated that the origins of “that’s what she said” can even be traced back to Shakespeare’s work. In Act 3, Scene 2 of the play “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare writes: “By gar, ‘tis no the fashion of France; it is not jealous in France.” to which Sir Andrew Aguecheek replies, “Nay, it is for… ‘tis cornuto: And have we not bedaubed with the wall, with the compensated ‘twixt our sex es?” Or in simpler terms, Andrew’s response can be interpreted as “That’s what she said.”

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Pop Culture Impact

The phrase gained mainstream popularity in the early 2000s due to its repeated use on the American TV show The Office. Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, regularly used the phrase in increasingly absurd circumstances, ensuring it quickly became part of modern vocabulary. After the show began airing, it became common slang amongst teens and young adults and used in real-life situations.

The widespread popularity of the phrase led to it appearing in other films and TV shows. It was used by Mark Wahlberg in the film The Departed and by the character of Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. The phrase has also been featured on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and internet memes.

Unclear Origins

While the phrase has been popularized through media, it is unclear who originally coined it as well as who first used it in a sexual context. An early printed reference to the phrase being used about a double entendre was made in the 1970s British television comedy, The Two Ronnies. Famous comedians like Gilbert Gottfried and Dana Carvey have been credited with popularizing the phrase along with Michael Scott’s character.

In the end, the origins of the phrase that’s what she said remain elusive. The beauty of the phrase lies in its universality; it has become a part of modern culture, evoking laughter and a sense of comradery wherever it is used. The phrase has come a long way from its humble origins as a dockworker’s slang expression, and it continues to stand the test of time as a comedic adhesive that brings people together.

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The Controversy Surrounding the Phrase

One of the most popular phrases today is “that’s what she said.” It is often heard in movies, TV shows, and Internet memes, but where did it come from? In this article, we will explore the origins of this famous phrase and the ensuing controversy surrounding it.

Social and Gender Implications

The phrase “that’s what she said” may seem innocent enough, but critics argue that it reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and contributes to a dismissive attitude towards women’s sexuality. It is often used in a sexual context, reducing women to mere objects of male desire and trivializing their experiences.

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Moreover, the phrase perpetuates the notion that women are not funny and their contributions to conversations are not significant. By using the phrase, people also indiscriminately assign gender to a statement, thereby creating the impression that male statements are the default and everything else is somehow deviant.

Context and Intent Matters

Despite the criticism, proponents of the phrase argue that it can be used in a harmless, humorous way, and that context and intent are important factors to consider. They suggest that many people use the phrase to create a good-natured, light-hearted moment in conversation or as an opportunity to poke fun at someone in a playful way.

In a way, it’s also a phrase that can convey sarcasm or exaggeration, making the moment more memorable. Its origins, however, are often debated, leaving little to no clear-cut answer as to what the phrase intended to communicate.

However, the point remains that the phrase often obscures valuable communication by limiting the contributions of those whose intent is not to make a joke.

Evolution and Adaptation

The phrase has also evolved and adapted to take on different meanings and intents, and many suggest that its continued use reflects an evolving cultural landscape. The phrase can be used today to convey a variety of meanings and contexts, far from its initial sexual tinge, and comes in handy for people who want to give their opinion a humorous twist or emphasise how ridiculous something is.

It’s easy to see how a popular phrase like “that’s what she said” can have a long shelf-life if its meaning is constantly adapting and evolving. In this regard, its use can be traced to the early 1990s. It is likely that its roots go back to sexual innuendos of the past; however, its relevance continues to change in modern times.

In Conclusion

There’s no denying that “that’s what she said” has become a part of our cultural lexicon. However, it’s important to acknowledge its problematic aspects and the harm it can cause to individuals. Instead, we can opt to embrace more inclusive language that reflects the values of our changing cultural landscape. Whether you choose to use it or not, we can agree that it’s a good reminder that our language choices can have a powerful impact on our conversations.

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Alternative Phrases and Their Origins

While “that’s what she said” has gained popularity as a catchphrase, its use has also been criticized for its sexist undertones. In response, alternative phrases have been proposed to promote inclusivity and diversity.

Inclusivity and Diversity

As awareness of the harmful effects of gender stereotypes grows, many people have called for a shift in the language used in comedy and everyday conversation. In response, alternative phrases have emerged that are less offensive and more inclusive.

One such phrase is “that’s what they said,” which avoids gender-specific language altogether. Another alternative is “that’s what I said,” which acknowledges the speaker’s own role in making the joke rather than attributing it to someone else.

Other phrases promote diversity by incorporating racial or cultural references. For example, “that’s what my grandmother said” or “that’s what they say in my country” can add nuance and complexity to the joke while also broadening the scope of humor.

“That’s What He Said” and Other Variations

As with any popular phrase, “that’s what she said” has spawned parodies and variations in the form of comedic responses.

One variation is “that’s what he said,” which flips the gender script and can be used in a variety of contexts. Other variations include “that’s what she said to me,” which adds a personal element to the joke, or “that’s what they said,” which avoids gender altogether.

While these variations can add humor and variety to the joke, some critics argue that they ultimately reinforce harmful stereotypes and should be avoided.

Global Variations

Sexual innuendo is not limited to English-speaking cultures, and many other languages and cultures have their own versions of “that’s what she said.”

In Spanish, for example, the phrase “eso dijo ella” is commonly used. In French, the phrase “c’est ce qu’elle a dit” is the equivalent. And in Japanese, a similar phrase is “sore ga iu no wa kanojo da.”

While these phrases may differ in specific wording and cultural context, they demonstrate the universal appeal of sexual innuendo and humor.

Overall, while “that’s what she said” has its roots in sexist stereotypes, the rise of alternative phrases and global variations shows that humor and sexual innuendo can be enjoyed without resorting to harmful language.

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