The Pillsburys on the TWSS trope

Okay, I get the general plot of how they’re both mutually surviving (or evading) some sort of sincerity tests. But no, what is the role of the TWSS trope? Is it a save? But in panel 2 it seems, on the contrary, to deepen the trouble, since Lucretia seems not to know the trope … or does she? But in panel 5 she provides a perfect set-up line for the trope as comeback, so she must know it. (And BTW what in fact is the bit about Fiddler getting at? What / how much is the supposed quote?)

I was going to attribute the original TWSS pattern to somebody, but didn’t know who. The entry at includes a surprisingly discursive article illustrating the usage and tracing the origins, after providing the basic compact definition: “That’s what she said is a form of innuendo that takes innocent statements out of context and makes them sound lewd or sexual.” They first find it in a 1973 book, which however calls it an ancient one-liner.


  1. Barney first delivers a loaded question (Panel #1), then uses TWSS as a pathetic cover (#2) when he realizes (from her shocked reply) that his initial question was way out of line. After he weasels out of that (#3), she counters with a broadside cannonade (#3 & #4), questioning his character and ethics, which Barney brushes off with a laugh (#4 & #5), attempting to imply that he agrees and that the question (#1) was not meant seriously. Barney then uses TWSS again as a humorous cover (#6), but this time she joins in with the (forced) laugh, perhaps deciding that she was too harsh (in #3 & #4). After a short pause (#7), both of them realize how close they were skirting disaster, and express relief in the last panel (#8) that the damage wasn’t more serious.

  2. “That’s what she said,” is an “Office” thing. If you know you know.
    I must say, for people who like and judge comics, most of you guys have no knowledge of tv, movies, music or any pop culture.

  3. @ rob – The “Office” can hardly lay claim to having invented TWSS. It may have been used there, but the phrase was common parlance long before then, including in my college residence over 40 years ago. It was almost always formulated in a sexual, very misogynist context that makes the two examples in this strip seem tame by comparison.

  4. The “Fiddler on the Roof” bit refers to a song between Tevye and his wife, who had an arranged marriage. Thankfully, they decided that after 25 years and three daughters, they had indeed fallen in love.

  5. The “Fiddler on the Roof” bit refers to a song between Tevye and his wife, who had an arranged marriage. Thankfully, they decided that after 25 years and three daughters, they had indeed fallen in love.

  6. @rob — Really, is there any need to sound quite so chiding? Especially when you are wrong on the facts, as Kilby points out.

    But let’s give you this: Yes, The Office was my first thought ; followed by “Let’s look it up and see where they got it from”,

  7. Very nice analysis, Kilby! It seems to me a notable amount of turnabout and judgement-revision to fit in a single comic, for which the creators deserve our admiration.

  8. My take:
    He asks his trophy wife a stupid/impossible question, to which the answer is obviously “no”, or at least, “I love your money“; but is a question which he should know not to ask, and which she does not want to answer, because it would bring the whole façade they’ve all agreed to come crashing down.
    So she doesn’t answer, instead asks him WTF are you asking.
    He realizes it was a stupid thing to ask, so tries to cover with levity, but chooses badly, ie: an innuendo laden trope comeback. Which she knows is such, and because this is not the boy’s locker room, she wants to know who “she” is, ie: what is he implying, what’s the innuendo, ie: is he really saying he has another woman? She might be the trophy wife who married for money, but that doesn’t mean he gets to flaunt his probable infidelities in her face. They’ve all agreed to play a certain game, and he’s now twice in a row said stupid things that can be seen to be breaking the implicit contract.
    So he hastily back-peddles and desperately comes up with a plausible cover story, but it obviously was not what he was thinking until he had to come up with it, as evidenced by the “Uh…”
    It is in fact a very good cover, and allows for restoration of all the cracks he has been causing in their façade, which they then proceed to do (even reusing the same stupid trope response that just few seconds earlier almost caused disaster): after chiding him for stupidly risking their façade, they revert to the kind of shallow dialog they should be having — but interestingly, they do it by reversal: she chides him by claiming that he was asking a shallow question that could only be answered one way, so it was wrong because they should be having deep conversation, but in fact their simultaneous secret “whew!”s show that in fact they want exactly opposite, only shallow conversation and nothing deep, and they managed to only just steer themselves away from the brink of deep conversation just now.

  9. Speaking of trophy wives, there was a one-season sitcom in 2013-14 with the title “Trophy Wife” and in my opinion much better than the title would lead one to suspect. The success was not much due to the talents of Bradley Whitford as the husband, but more to excellent comedic performances from the women: Malin Akerman (as 3rd wife, and probably the referent of the title), the great Michaela Watkins (2nd wife), Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (1st wife), and former Miamian Natalie Morales (friend of one of the wives).

  10. I didn’t see that anyone said that “The Office” invented the term, just that it was a “thing”. It was used frequently, and I’m sure helped popularize in the US.

  11. That’s a nice clip from the movie, but it should be noted that “Do I … WHAT?” Is a direct quote from the original stage version.

  12. Once you start up the TWSS habit you see opportunities everywhere. Basically anytime anyone says something that contains a pronoun and an adjective, you’ve got an opening. [That’s what HE said.]

  13. I always figured “That’s what she said!” was about as old as “____-er? I hardly even know her!”

  14. I had the feeling that TWSS was already old hat when I learned it, somewhere around 1960, give or take a few years. Of course, as a juvenile, I thought it was really clever.

  15. I am pretty sure that Tevye and Golda have FIVE daughters. One marries the tailor, one marries the revolutionary, one marries the sheigetz (non- jewish man) and two are little girls -before the pogrom two little boys are brought over as possible future husbands for the other two.

    Just saw yet another early movie version of the story (1939) on late night TV.

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