That’s what she said (TWSS)

Double Entendre: TWSS          

*imagine 2 guys trying something on at a store*

Guy B: That’s what she said
GIPHY, 2016

I am sure all or many us reading have heard of this exchange. According to Kiddon, C., & Brun, Y. (2011), a double entendre is when a person says something in a non-sexual context, but a fellow interlocutor makes it sexually charged by tweaking its literal meaning. But what does it really mean when one says that? And has there been a difference to its semantic through time? Similar to the baseball and pizza analogy mentioned earlier in the course, TWSS is more than just what it means. There must be a right tone and pitch to achieve that sexual construction. Let us hope that by the end of this post, we would have an idea of what was it that the ‘entity-she’ said, that people just CAN’T GET OVER.

With reference to The Weird Origins of “That’s What She Said”  (Nelson D., 2016), and The Origin of That’s what she said and the much older British equivalent of the phrase (Youtube, 2016),  they  summarised the roots of TWSS by;

  1. Inspired by ‘said the actress to the bishop’ in the Edwardian period
  2. Chevy Chase used the joke during “Weekend Update” skit on the show’s first season 1975
  3. Canadian comedian Mike Myers in the 1992 blockbuster comedy Wayne’s World & Saturday Night Live
  4. Steve Carell playing the character Michael Scott in the popular television drama; The Office (American)

Its earliest roots or ‘inspiration’ first surfaced during the Edwardian period (1901-1910). It was often used to describe the conversation between a clergy and a penitent (Wikipedia, 2018). Generally, this interaction occurs when someone seeks for repentance and talks to a bishop (anonymously) in a booth of a place of worship. So what happened in that period was that (some) actresses would offer ‘company and companionship’ after performance hours to men, in return for money. So, to atone for their sins, these actresses would confess their sexual sins to a clergymen/bishop.  Thus, the term ‘said the actress to the bishop’ was in a way to be taken seriously (and literally word for word) but how is it that at present day, it has become a sexually charged notion; (albeit comical)?

In fact, in a study done by Kiddon, C., & Brun, Y. (2011), statements that are prone to being TWSS-ed involves either of these two elements; nouns that are euphemisms for sexually explicit nouns or those that have a common structure with sentences in the erotic domain. For this, we shall take it from the most recent; a compilation of Michael Scott’s ‘that’s what she said(s)’ from various seasons of the American version of The Office (Youtube, 2017) as it gained even more recognition when it was popularized by the drama. In fact, it was so frequently used by Steve Carell that it would be odd for him NOT to mention it at every sexual innuendo possible:

 Upon analysing there were 3 general themes of TTWSs; climax, penises & sexual positions and some to highlight- placed side by side with its literal and its possible double entendre:

My mother’s coming / My mother’s cumming
Michael, I can’t believe you came (to see me) / Michael, I can’t believe you ejaculated-came
I want you to think about it long & hard / I want you to think about the long & hard dick
Can you make that straighter / Can you make that dick straighter
Sexual Positions
And you were directly under her (charge) the entire time / And you were directly under her body
You need to get back on top (of management) / You need to get back on top of her body


A food for thought, why has the phrase not evolved over the years to make men the unmarked gender of the phrase? Why is there a pronoun she when most of the time, there is no female entity present whilst the conversation? It is also interesting to note that both the British and American versions of ‘The Office’ exhibits the reality of inequality in gender in their respective countries, especially so in the context of an office working environment. In which the women characters are habitually posed with sexual humour and remarks. Is it once again pertaining to our eternal quest for gender equality? Maybe one day, an equally popular version of ‘that’s what he said’ would appear…. But for now, even that sounds odd to me.

The popular culture indeed has a way of proving that despite coming from different countries (and continents), sex is something globally understood. Also, I guess it is thanks to the magical realm of semantics that what she said can vary so much. Once again, it substantiates how language and sexuality are tightly intertwined, that one does not have to explicitly say ‘i had sex’ or ‘my one-night stand said that my genitals were big’. Because I mean… that’s what she said.

GIPHY, 2016
Kiddon, C., & Brun, Y. (2011). That’s what she said: double entendre identification. In Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies: short papers-Volume 2 (pp. 89-94). Association for Computational Linguistics.
Nelson, D. (2016, October 23). THE WEIRD ORIGINS OF “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID”. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from THRILLIST:
Wikipedia. (2018, February 3). Priest–penitent privilege. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from
YouTube. (2016, October 23). The Origin of “That’s What She Said” and the Much Older British Equivalent of the Phrase. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from Today I Found Out:
YouTube. (2017, July 15). Every That’s What She Said Ever – The Office US. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from The Office US:



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3 thoughts on “That’s what she said (TWSS)”

  1. Hi Dwi!

    I find it interesting that the history of TWSS goes all the way back to the 1900s when it was actually taken to mean literally when actresses confess their sexual sins. Also, I agree that we should have a male equivalent to TWSS. I mean, don’t men have sexual desires, or frustrations, and talk about them too? Why can’t we popularise those instead?

    Anyway, what a good read and I LOVE THE OFFICE!!!

  2. Interesting content on double entendre especially on the analysis of the three general themes revolving around it: climax, penises and sexual positions. We witness the use of double entendre almost everywhere but in the celebrity chef’s latest series, ‘Simply Nigella‘, the undisputed queen of the food-based double entendre is back with some of her best innuendos! For the record, here are some of Nigella’s best innuendos that are in line with the above-mentioned general themes of double entendre: on filling potato skins, ‘my empty vessels are ready to be loaded’, on mince pies, ‘these are my guiltless pleasures, they really are bulging’. Often exchanging knowing glances with the camera coupled with slow-motion kneading and whisking for added effect, we see why viewers love sharing Nigella Lawson’s best innuendos on Twitter paired with the phrase none other than: ‘that’s what she said’.

  3. Hi Dwi,

    Interesting post, it was really insightful and I like the question that you raised about why women remain to be the subject of the double entredre despite our society evolving. I guess it just shows how deeply rooted gender inequality is in the society that we live in today. Popular culture, I think, could be one way to change the mindsets and perceptions of gender inequality because media still remains a powerful force in influencing the way we think.

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