I See What You Did There – What Does The Idiom – Means?

The idiom – “I see what you did there.” and its shortened forms – ISWYDT and ICWYDT are among the most popular memes that you can see on the Internet. There are several ways to understand the idiom as well as using it correctly.


Scroll down for more information on “I see what you did there.” and a few examples of popular usage:

​About The Idiom

​Thanks to its popularity, you can see this idiom as sentence or caption for image macros. It can be interfered in various ways- an indifferent response to a banal joke, a true admiration for someone’s wit and cleverness or a simple confirmation of knowledge.

Before “I see what you did there.” becomes a popular meme on the Internet, it was used in pop culture, more specifically, in the famous TV drama- Friends. In the episode aired in March 1996- “The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies”, Joey (starring Matt LeBlanc) told Phoebe (starring Lisa Kudrow) that he played an important part in writing his own lines for his current TV show. He said that he had changed the original sentence “She is going to die” to “She is not gonna live.” Phoebe realized that he only rewrote the sentence instead of doing any actual writing. Hence, she simply responsed with a sentence, which is “I see what you did there.”

Soon enough, the idiom becomes more and more popular. In 2004, 2 acronym versions – ISWYDT and OICWYDT were listed on Urban Dictionary. The full version of the idiom was later added to this dictionary site in 2005.

​What Does The Sentence Mean?

​As I mention above, there are 3 ways to use this idiom and it also has 3 different meanings.

  • An indifferent response to a banal joke: After someone tells a joke that he or she thinks is funny, you can use this sentence to express that you understand the joke but don’t like it. In case someone tells you about the thing that he or she has done which he or she is proud, it means that you are not impressed at all. The idiom is used as sarcasm.
  • A true admiration for someone’s wit and cleverness: In case someone tells you a joke or do something witty, you would use this idiom to express that you like the joke or admire the thing that the other person has just done.
  • A simple confirmation of knowledge: After someone tells a joke, you can use this sentence. This means that you understand the joke that was told. It doesn’t show that you like or do not like the joke. In this case, it simply replaces the saying: “I got it.”

So how can you know the true intention of person when he says “I know what you did there.”?

  • The tone of their voice: If he or she sounds surprised, it could be a positive response- the person understand the joke and like it.
  • The context: In case the context contains a banal joke, just like the one from the Friends’ episode, the sentence “I see what you did there.” is intended as a negative response.

​As you can see, a single idiom “I see what you did there.” can be understood in 3 different ways with different tones and implications. Make sure you can use it appropriately.