In the US version of TV show "The Office", many characters keep saying the tagline "That's what she said". There is even a t-shirt on the official store. I never actually understood this punchline as they say it in unrelated scenarios. What is the meaning of this punchline?

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    Short version: Sex (That's what she said)
    – Amory
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 16:01
  • "She said the same thing to me last night during sex."
    – IQAndreas
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 14:56
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    Neither of those is accurate. It's more like, trying to use a plug that is too small for the hole you are trying to fill, you say "damn, this is too small for the hole", then "that's what she said", implying the penis was too small for the vagina. Another form might be "that's what your momma said"... "I can't hit it (the ball) straight", "that's what your momma said" ... or toothpaste "this won't come out" (said while squeezing the tube) "that's what your momma said"
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 17:04
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    @Mast It was said outside the series long before the series existed. Also, it's often said for (possibly very minor) comedic effect when it has nothing to do with the current conversation simply because of its sexual connotations. Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 9:05
  • 1
    the probably copied from here: xkcd.com/174
    – user13267
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


While researching this question, I went to the Michael Scott page on Wiki. In the section of (the character) Scott's interests, it states that:

Michael's favorite catchphrase is "That's what she said!", a sexually suggestive double entendre he uses even in the most inappropriate circumstances, including business meetings and legal depositions. Michael finds uttering the phrase so irresistible that in (the episode) "Sexual Harassment" he is goaded into saying it just seconds after Jan Levenson and a lawyer from Corporate specifically ask him not to do so.

"That's what she said!", in Wikipedia, redirects to the "Said the actress to the bishop" Wiki page.

Now, as for the meaning of the phrase itself, according to the "Said the actress to the bishop" wiki page,

"Said the actress to the bishop" is an informal (and usually vulgar) exclamation, said for humour in the form of a punch line after an inadvertent double entendre. The equivalent phrase in North America is "that's what she said". Both phrases are examples of Wellerisms, a literal "turn" of a phrase, changing its meaning. The versatility of the phrase and its popularity lead some to consider it a cliché.

To define "That's what she said!" as for it's use as a vulgar come-back, Wiki cites this as an example:

By 1973, "that's what she said" had already been characterized as an "ancient one-liner". In the early 1990s, it was popularized as a recurring joke in the Saturday Night Live sketch Wayne's World. In the movie of the same name, the character, Wayne Campbell, uses the phrase after his partner Garth says, "Hey, are you through yet? 'Cause I'm getting tired of holding this," in regard to a picture he is holding.

So the joke would be: "Hey, are you through yet? 'Cause I'm getting tired of holding this", "That's what she said!", alluding to the double entendre of she was getting tired of holding his (insert male sexual body part here). :)

Now, as to why this phrase was used in the American version of "The Office",

In the original BBC version of The Office, Ricky Gervais's character David Brent frequently used the phrase "as the actress said to the bishop" as an inappropriate joke. When the show was adapted for American audiences, the phrase was translated to "that's what she said" for Steve Carell's character Michael Scott. "That's what she said" became a catchphrase of The Office and was used for the show's "That's What She Said" Sweepstakes.

So, it was a direct translation of essentially the British version of the same phrase used in the British Television original series upon which this series is based.

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    I appreciate the larger Office-specific background information of your answer, but I think the OP isn't even aware of what this phrase actually means, as Angew explains it. You might want to add a short explanation to flesh this out into a proper answer a bit more.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 12:51
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    @NapoleonWilson heh, done
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 13:18
  • @NapoleonWilson Compare and contrast this question and answer with the Pulp Fiction one... This question cannot (is not) explcitely answered by wikipedia. I had to use multiple pages (albeit all wiki) in order to more fully answer it. (I'm not counting all of the internal links within quotes, but the fact that I used a character page (Scott), and a different phrase's page to fully answer the question.)
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 13:29
  • As repeatedly said, I don't say the other question doesn't lack research effort, only that it isn't a trivia question. Afterall, he could easily have googled that dialogue phrase, too, and I would already have been satisfied with Angew's answer (not that yours isn't great and better than that). (And comparing questions/answers to other questions/answers seems a bit unrelated anyway). But if you'd like to discuss this further, feel free to draw it to chat, I feel we've expressed each other's opinions on the matter quite extensively already.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 13:55
  • 6
    "insert male sexual body part here"... that's what she said
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 18:11

In a conversation between A and B, "that's what she said" is a (very informal!) phrase B would use to give A's (harmless) statement an unexpected dirty meaning not indended by A. It is implied that the "she" said this during/before/after sexual or related activity.

As an example:

A is unsuccessfully trying to push a thick folder into an overfull shelf, commenting "this will never squeeze in."

B would reply: "That's what she said."

You can read more about the phrase on e.g. Urban dictionary or English.SE.


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