The Office Helped Create These Memorable And Meme-able Words

It might be hard to believe that for nine years (2005–2013), many TV viewers escaped the drudgery of office life by, well, tuning into the drudgery of office life. But when your co-workers are as silly, snafu-prone, and just plain ol’ hilarious as the cast of The Office, who wouldn’t want to work overtime?

Believe it or not, The Office—which introduced us to beloved characters Michael Scott (World’s Best Boss), Pam Beesly, Dwight Shrute, and Jim Halpert—is a remake of a show with the same name that aired in the United Kingdom. What made the show so beloved was its compelling approach to chronicling mundane office life. You’re stuck with this group of people, so what’s going to happen? Over the course of nine US seasons, the answer to that is: a lot.

With a slightly schmaltzy tone and a whole lot of earnest writing, the American Office bred more than a few catchy phrases. From boss Michael Scott’s silly linguistic mix-ups to the series’ long-running jokes, these gems have become our favorite corporate jargon.

Let’s get started on this list of unforgettable gags and gaffes from The Office with one we all know.

That's what she said!

The British and American versions of The Office both have this phrase in common. In fact, it’s because of The Office that this phrase garnered near-ubiquity in the early 2010s.

If you weren’t already aware, That’s what she said is a form of innuendo that takes innocent statements out of context and makes them sound lewd or inappropriate (e.g., “It’s not long enough!” “That’s what she said”).

This one doesn’t solely belong to the show, however. That’s what she said appears in print as early as 1973. It appeared on TV during a Saturday Night Live episode from 1975. But in the 2000s, Michael Scott cemented it as his own one-liner, thus popularizing the phrase for a long while.


Yes, the exclamation mark is crucial. This memorable moment came from Season 6 of The Office. The first few frames of the episode have Michael Scott taking a tumble, catching his steps, and yelling, “Parkour!” The characters continue to yell parkour! for the duration of the episode while doing clumsy moves that definitely aren’t parkour. So, what’s parkour anyway?

Parkour, or freerunning, is a type of athletic discipline practiced in urban, complex environments. It’s about getting from Point A to Point B on a map as efficiently as possible, even if it means jumping over guardrails and climbing brick walls. It takes a lot of training to become good at parkour.

In 2019, this episode and its use of parkour! became a meme on Reddit. Memes with the macro image of Michael shouting parkour! are captioned with jokes such as “jumping from one emotion to the next” or “my last two brain cells.” Truly iconic.

I feel God in this Chili's tonight.

This oft-quoted gift of a phrase from office receptionist Pam Beesly appeared in the first episode of the second season, “The Dundies.” Every year, Michael Scott presents the office awards (“The Dundies”) to his employees at the local Chili’s restaurant. Hijinks ensue, of course, as the gang gets drinks, cuts loose, and eats some famed Chili’s appetizers.

In one of the more sentimental, if not funniest, moments of the show, Pam gets the Dundie for “Whitest Sneakers” and proclaims “… because God gave me this Dundie and I feel God in this Chili’s tonight.”

At the end of the episode, everyone’s favorite Office couple shares a kiss (aw).

They're the same picture.

Here’s another Pam-ism. In an episode from Season 7, Pam attempts to trick stand-in manager Creed by showing him two pictures and asking him to point out the differences. Except, she clandestinely tells the audience, “They’re the same picture.” This one was just waiting to be made into a meme, and memed it was.

In 2018 and 2019, countless memes were made across fandoms to illustrate two things that are synonymous with each other. For example, the word you might appear on one side, while the words absolute perfection appear on the other side. It means you’re absolute perfection! They’re the same picture, you know.

People also used this meme to talk trash about things they didn’t like. A picture of a video game next to a piece of trash implied that the video game was trash. Ouch.

superstitious vs. stitious

Who knew a linguistic faux pas could be so funny? We should really hand this one to Michael Scott, as he may be onto something. In one of the show’s interview segments, Michael says that while he isn’t completely superstitious, he is “a little stitious.”

He’s pretending the word superstitious is either a phrase or compound in which super is acting as the informal adverb super, meaning “very, extremely,” and –stitious is its own adjective, which Michael Scott takes to mean “believing in superstitions to a moderate degree.” That’s very clever, Michael, but there is no such discrete word (a lexeme, if you want to get technical).

Now, that’s not to say the -stitious part of superstitious isn’t meaningful. Superstitious ultimately comes from a Latin word meaning “standing beyond,” with that –stit- bit (known as a morpheme) indicating “standing.” Wow, who knew Michael Scott would send us down a linguistics rabbit hole?

How the turntables.

The Office is rife with memorable words and phrases; fans could make their own language of inside jokes to communicate with each other! This idiomatic whoopsie occurs in Season 5. Upon a successful business negotiation, Michael immediately undermines himself by saying, “Well, well, well … how the turntables.”

What he meant to say was, “How the tables have turned!” This idiom is a metaphor for making a comeback. It can actually be traced back to board games known as “tables,” such as backgammon.

Out of all the characters, Michael makes the most linguistic blunders of all, even though he thinks he’s incredibly eloquent. Not to mention that in this same episode, he says, “Our balls are in your court” instead of “the ball’s in your court.” So there’s that.


Even though bankruptcy is no laughing matter, The Office somehow managed to make it into one.

Here’s a recap: Michael and then-girlfriend Jan move in together, and she begins to request changes made to his expense. They make plans to renovate the condo and even trade-in both their cars for a luxury model. Michael, unable to deal with the costs, takes on a second job at night.

It all comes to a boiling point when he quits his night gig and walks into the office to declare “bankruptcy.” By declaring, we mean he actively shouts it before retreating to his office. He needs to be gently reminded that verbally declaring bankruptcy doesn’t make it so.

This joke comes from the phrase declare bankruptcy, which is a very real thing individuals and corporations sometimes have to do when the money isn’t coming in. There’s a complete (and complicated) legal process to declaring or filing for bankruptcy.

But if you’re in a situation where you’re being spent, either financially or emotionally, it’s worth a shot to see if yelling “Bankruptcy!” makes it go away.

escape goat

Ah, another classic example of Michael Scott confusing common phrases. In this one from Episode 20 of Season 3, Michael laments, “They’re trying to make me the escape goat.” What he really means is the scapegoat.

Michael might be absolved of some of the blame on this one. Where did the word scapegoat even come from? Scapegoat (derived from the words escape and goat) means “a person or group that holds the blame and suffering in the place of another,” and you’ll have to take a look at the Bible for the origins of this one. In the book Leviticus, Chapter 16, a ritual Day of Atonement is played out: one of two goats will be cast out into the wilderness, symbolically carrying the sins of the people, while another is sacrificed.

While Michael didn’t use the word correctly, he did get to the origin of the word, even if he didn’t intend to.

Do you think doing alcohol is cool?

In an anti-drug pep talk to staff, Michael goes a bit overboard and gets his words in a jumble (nothing new there): “Do you think smoking drugs is cool? Do you think that doing alcohol is cool?”

The funny thing about this mishap is that while we may not know why it’s silly, we all know it sounds wrong. Well, this slip-up is a result of a language error known as catachresis. A catachresis is a “misuse or strained use of words.”

When Michael says “Do you think doing alcohol is cool?” he’s linguistically cementing alcohol as a drug but using the wrong transitive verb to do it. While it is acceptable to use do to describe some actions, it isn’t acceptable all the time. We drink alcohol. We smoke some drugs, sure, but not every drug is meant to be smoked. Sometimes we take drugs, as in taking a prescription from a doctor.

Would you rather be feared or loved?

One particular moment in Season 2 stands as a testament to the heart The Office has. In Episode 6, Michael cements his personality as a lovable doof. When he’s asked the infamous quote from Niccolo Machiavelli—”Is it better to be feared or loved?”— he replied, “Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

In this insightful moment, Michael completely bypasses the ethical quandary this question poses. In the 16th-century treatise The Prince, Machiavelli advocates for leaders who rule by fear. And of course, he answers the question in a different way than Michael Scott: “If you cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.”

No doubt, the World’s Best Boss mug belongs in Michael Scott’s hands. It’s no wonder people sobbed during the final season (no spoilers if you haven’t seen The Office).

Out of all these quintessential The Office quotes, which one is your favorite?

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Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?


[ pahr-suh-moh-nee-uhs ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

[ pahr-suh-moh-nee-uhs ]