Welcome to the Salty Spitoon. How Tough Are Ya? refers to a series of memes based on a scene from SpongeBob SquarePants in which a fish wishing to enter a pub proves his toughness to a bouncer with a personal anecdote. The format is typically used to present various deeds as impressive and tough feats, whether genuine or sarcastic in nature.
On March 15th, 2002, season three episode 48a, titled "No Weenies Allowed," of the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants premiered. In one scene of the episode, the character Sailor Fish demands that bouncer Reg lets him inside the Salty Spitoon, "the toughest sailor club in Bikini Bottom." Upon being asked to prove his toughness, Sailor Fish tells Reg that he ate a bowl of nails without any milk (scene shown below).
- Welcome to the Salty Spittoon. How tough are ya?
- How tough am I? How tough am I?! I had a bowl of nails for breakfast this morning!
- Yeah, so?
- Without any milk.
- Uh, right this way, sorry to keep you waiting.
On June 25th, 2010, an anonymous 4chan user started a thread on /b/ board in which other users provided humorous answers to why they should be let inside The Salty Spitoon. On the same day, Know Your Meme user Caucheka archived a screenshot of the thread on the site (shown below). This is the earliest documented evidence of the scene being used as a meme format.
The format saw occasional use on 4chan in 2010 and 2011. For example, on June 22nd, 2011, an anonymous 4chan user started a thread posing the question "Welcome to the Salty Spitoon. How tough are you?" with other users providing humorous responses (shown below).
The format saw its first surge in popularity in summer 2012, with the format gaining spread outside of imageboards. For example, on June 27th, 2012, Cheezburger user Garrett858 reposted a version of the meme that received over 790 likes in nine years (shown below, left). On July 29th, 2012, Cheezburger user Clucknadus posted a meme that gained over 1,200 likes in the same period (shown below, right).
In the following years, the format maintained moderate popularity online, being used as a phrasal template, a four-panel exploitable and as source material for various edits. The scene has also been used as a standalone catchphrase. For example, on March 9th, 2015, Tumblr user thatmetticguy referenced the scene in a comment under an image of pins covered with milk (shown below). The post received over 224,000 likes and reblogs in six years.