What Is The “Oh To Be” Meme And How The Phrase Became Part Of Everyday Language

"Oh to be a woman in the 1800s, diagnosed with hysteria and getting a lobotomy."

"oh to be meme" explained all the best

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Every day people wish for something they’re not — whether it’s to change their financial status, looks, location, or even entire species.

Wanting something you don’t have is normal, being envious of something is normal, and saying the words “oh to be” is now totally normal too. The “oh to be” meme is exactly what it sounds like — a longing phrase used to express the desire “to be” anything else but yourself.

The meme is mostly applied to images of animals doing things that us mere mortals don’t have the skills to do. These animals are often depicted in content states in hyper-specific situations. For example, the most recent popular version of the “oh to be” meme featured four images of a yellow lab napping over a canal in Bruges. And honestly, yes. Wouldn’t we all want to be him.

While people think the meme started on Twitter with a video of a little dough ball circling around a pot, “oh to be” was used long before this. References to the “oh to be” meme format existed on Reddit at least a year before it reached its peak on Twitter.

Seven months ago someone simply posted a fat cat laying on a broken cardboard box with the text: “Oh, to be a cat”. Five months prior to that another person shared a photo of a heap of dinosaur figurines with the caption: “Oh, to be a six-year-old again.”

Even on Twitter, a tweet about an elaborate dessert that features a macaron resting on a ferris wheel made out of chocolate was posted before the dough ball. “Oh…………. to be a macaron on a chocolate ferris wheel,” the tweet read.

It was this video that inspired the dough ball tweet, and turned the “oh to be” meme into the beast it has become today.

Very quickly, the phrase “oh to be” became just another part of internet vernacular — much like “on fleek” did way back in 2016 or how “ok boomer” took over the web last year. People started applying the phrase to things beyond cute animals. “Oh to be” was used for everything: from nostalgic feelings about early technology all the way to critiquing the concept of generational wealth.

“Oh to be” became a meme for cute photos, yes. But “oh to be” also became a part of every day language at the same time. This is because as the internet and the people on it evolve, new phrases online become the norm.

As an example, in the last few months, “King of” was quickly replaced by “CEO of” thanks to teens on TikTok. Looking further back, the phrase “I can’t even” was phased out for “sksksksksks” by the very powerful hands of stan Twitter. Even the super popular “rofl” from the early 2010s has been swapped out for the super simple “haha”.

So here are all the best “oh to be” memes — perfect for literally any situation, photo, person or thing, really.