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“I See What You Did There”, sometimes shortened as ICWYDT or ISWYDT, is a phrase typically found online either in comments or captions for image macros. Depending on its tone, it can convey a condescending response to a banal joke, a genuine admiration for another person’s wit or a threat akin to “I know what you did.”
The expression had been used in pop culture previous to the internet, first seen in a March 1996 episode of the television comedy Friends titled “The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies.” In the scene, Joey (played by Matt LeBlanc) is explaining to Phoebe (played by Lisa Kudrow) how he writes his own lines on the television show he works on. He tells her that he took the original line “If we don’t get this woman to a hospital, she’s going to die” and changed it to “If this woman doesn’t get to a hospital, she’s not gonna live.” Realizing he just rephrased the script and did not do any actual writing, Phoebe responds with “I see what you did there” as a method of patronizing him.
Online, one of the earliest archived uses of the phrase appeared on the Ultimate Ju-jitsu Forum on July 18th, 2003 when a member posted a joke about a Jujitsu martial arts center named the Boy Club, asking if it was a reference to the blue corner of a ju-jitsu mat, to which another poster responded with “ah ha, i see what you did there."
“I See What You Did There” has been used on a variety of topical message boards between 2003 and 2007, including hobby forum ilXor, the Killer Movies community and the Newgrounds forums. In 2004, two acronym versions of the phrase were defined on Urban Dictionary, OICWYDT and ISWYDT. The former is attributed to the LiveJournal community indiefucks, which has been active since June 2002. The following year in 2005, “i see what you did there” as a full phrase was added to Urban Dictionary.
Image macros bearing the phrase started to appear throughout 2007 and 2008, with instances posted on I Can Has Cheezburger?, My[confined]Space, eBaum’s World and Halolz. Collections of these image macros can be found on Buzzfeed, Quickmeme and the Chive. Additional instances of both image macros and captionless pictures can be found on Tumblr, FunnyJunk and Reddit.
As early as in August 2011, the phrase became paired with a reaction face that had been circulating on 4chan since that February, with the earliest known instance posted by Tumblr user dyselxia in a joke about juice beverages.
Later that month, a rage comic featuring the face was posted on Memebase. On October 1st, it was added to All The Rage Faces and made its debut on Reddit in a rage comic posted on October 29th. As of July 2012, there are more than 100 rage comics on Reddit with the I See What You Did There face. There are more than 20 Facebook fan pages for the rage face, with the largest one having 98,896 fans as of July 2012.
Although the phrase is relatively common in everyday speech, search volume for the phrase did not pick up until mid-2005.