Where does I see what you did there come from?
I see what you did there was popularized by an episode of the sitcom Friends. In the 1996 episode “The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies,” the character Joey, who works as a soap opera actor, explains to his friend Phoebe that he sometimes writes his own lines for his TV roles. He then explains how he changed the line “If we don’t get this woman to a hospital, she’s going to die” to “If this woman doesn’t get to a hospital, she’s not gonna live.” Phoebe responds, “Oh, ok, I see what you did there,” in a condescending tone.
Within two years of the episode’s air date, the phrase was being used to acknowledge humor—that one gets a joke or witty remark, sometimes with slowly dawning appreciation—online. I see what you did there occurred as a response to a joke in a Usenet group as early as 1998.
I see what you did there is sometimes shortened to ISWYDT or OICWYDT (with OIC standing in for “Oh, I see”) or ICWYDT in online contexts. ISWYDT appeared on Usenet as early as 2000. OICWYDT was defined on Urban Dictionary in October 2004, noting that the acronym was in use on the blogging platform LiveJournal.
Since at least 2008, images with the caption I see what you did there have been used to express the same sentiment. Many of these feature people (e.g., Barack Obama, the Futurama character Fry) smiling and pointing, as though in recognition of a good joke.
In 2011, I see what you did there became associated with a “reaction face” line drawing of a character knowingly smiling, used in response to jokes online. Search interest for the phrase peaked around that same time, and the character went on to become a rage comic face.
A card-based party game called I See What You Did There was published with Kickstarter funding in 2015.
Who uses I see what you did there?
I see what you did there is used across a variety of informal spoken and written contexts. It may be used as a genuine appreciation of humor or as a sarcastic characterization of an obvious joke or bad pun. In digital communication, the abbreviated ISWYDT or OICWYDT are used often used in response to a poster’s comment.
“'the administration's policy decisions could shake [the fruit-growing industry] to its core' #ISWYDT”
@Menniss_Madoran Twitter (March 29, 2017)
“ROLL your way in with some BUDS on 4/20. I see what you did there @benandjerrys ”
@Morgan_Balderas Twitter (April 18, 2017)
“‘ISWYDT’: Hillary Clinton tweets photo of Bill on #NationalDogDay [title]”
“‘ISWYDT’: Hillary Clinton tweets photo of Bill on #NationalDogDay,” Twitchy (August 26, 2016)