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“My Face When…” (also shortened as “>mfw”) is a colloquial phrase commonly used on 4chan imageboards as the opening line of reply posts and greentext stories in particular. The phrase is used in forum discussions to discuss how users would respond to a given situation, whether it be hypothetical or based on experiences of real life. “Mfw” posts can be also accompanied by a reaction face image.
“>mfw” threads first began appearing on 4chan’s imageboards in late 2009, with the earliest archived thread dating back to November 29th, 2009 in the /mu/ (music) thread “Syd”.
The Urban Dictionary entry for “>mfw” was first submitted on June 12th, 2010, defined as the following:
Abbreviation for “my face when…” A meme on 4chan that lets you post what your face would look like in a specific situation. Usually posted in greentext with a picture of said face, like this:
>mfw a eurofag called American Football smibbily wobbly ball near me
>my face when an American was fat near me
>my face when hitler was still alive
>my face when usa won the world cup
>my face when Soulja Boy is considered a musical artist near me
“mfw” threads have since spread beyond the realm of 4chan culture and similar “reaction image” threads can be found on a number of other online communities like Tumblr, Terraria Online, Xbox360 Achievement and Bungie forums among others.
In March 2010, a website dedicated to collecting and documenting popular reaction faces was registered under the domain MyFaceWhen.com. A year later in March 2011, another website that describes itself as the database of reaction images was launched under the domain MyFaceWhen.net. “mfw” threads have also gained some momentum on Reddit starting in April 2011, leading to the creation of mfw-exlcusive subreddit.
“My Face When X Calls Y Z” is a related snowclone phrase that is believed to have originated from 4chan’s /v/ board. Such threads usually open up a place for users to vent about the discrepancies of word usage across English-speaking countries and general cultural barriers, though they often attract trolls who try to pass off nonsensical words as colloquial terms. Similar to generic “mfw” threads, such posts are accompanied by the image of a shocked person or someone laughing smugly.
An example would be:
My face when Americans call Wacky womper tallywags “TelePhones.”
In this phrasal template, X represents a nation or group of people; Y represents the made-up term passed off as the actual one in usage; Z represents the real object or term disguised as a marginal word.
Google search queries for “My Face When” and “mfw” both yielded a significant spike in between March and April 2010, around the same time the reaction image blog MyFaceWhen.com went live.
Xbox360 Achievements – My face when i accidently deleted my profile and ALL my game saves