||This article possibly contains original research. (May 2008)|
As this practice became ingrained into modern western culture, it has taken on the simple role of a final warning before a photograph is taken. Often subjects will simply use the phrase "say cheese" as a cue to enter their final pose and to smile, neglecting to actually say "cheese".
Over the years, many other words have been used in place of cheese. For comedic effect, a photographer might say "Say ______" filling the blank with a word relevant to the event or action he is photographing (for example, "Say wipe out" during a seaside photograph). Other times a person will fill the blank with an absurdist or seemingly arbitrary word of their choice.
Cheese causing people to smile
In Penrith, England, a challenge to people you may think are lying used to be to repeat the word "cheese" ten times and if you laugh, you are not telling the truth. This challenge was simply called 'Cheese'.
In other cultures
Perhaps due to strong Western influence, especially in the realm of photography, and perhaps due to increased numbers of Western visitors after photographic equipment became widely available, the phrase "Say cheese" has also entered into the Japanese language. However, the word "say" is almost always dropped from the phrase, resulting in the phrase simply being "Cheese." This is usually pronounced in Japanese (and written in katakana) as "chiizu" (チーズ).
Other languages have adopted this method, albeit with different words that sound similar to cheese to get the desired effect of shaping the mouth to form a smile.
- In Bulgaria, "Zele", meaning "Cabbage"
- In Brazil the phrase is "Olha o passarinho" ("Look at the little bird") or "Digam 'X'" ("Say 'X'") (the name of the letter "X" in Portuguese sounds a lot like the word "cheese").
- In China, the word used is 茄子 (qie2zi), meaning "eggplant". The pronunciation of this word is notably similar to that of the English word "cheese".
- In Croatia, the word used is "ptičica", meaning "little bird"
- In Czech Republic, the word used is "sýr", meaning cheese in Czech."
- In Denmark, "Sig 'appelsin'", meaning "Say 'orange'" is often used.
- In Finland, "Muikku" is the word often used by photographers to make people smile.
- In France and other French-speaking countries, the word "ouistiti," meaning marmoset, is often used.
- In Germany, food-related words like "Spaghetti", "Käsekuchen" (cheesecake), Wurst are used, mainly to make children laugh for the picture.
- In Hungary, the photographer says Itt repül a kis madár [here flies the little bird], but also the English "cheese" is used mostly by younger people.
- In India, they say "paneer" (Hindi: पनीर).
- In Morocco, "Khbiz", which means bread, is often used.
- In Iran, the word used is سیب (saib), meaning "Apple."
- In Israel, the word used is תגיד צ'יז (Tagid Gvina), meaning "say cheese".
- In Japan, "Sei, No..." meaning "Ready, Set!" is often used. Also チーズ (chïzu), meaning cheese, is used.
- In Vietnam, they often say "2...3...Cười lên nào!!!".
- In Korea, one says "kimchi".
- In most Latin American countries, the phrase used is "Diga 'whiskey'" ("Say 'whiskey'").
- In Nigeria many photographers prompt the subjects of their photographs to say "Ode" which can be translated to mean "dumb person"
- In Russia, they say "сыр", pronounced seer, which means "cheese" in Russian. The pronunciation is extended, to lengthen the time the "smile" is on the face.
- In Serbia, the word used is "птичица" meaning "Little bird".
- In Slovakia, the word used is "syr", meaning cheese in Slovak. The pronunciation is extended, to lengthen the time the "smile" is on the face."
- In Spain, the equivalent form is "di/decid patata" ("say potato"). An alternative command when taking a picture is "mirar al pajarito" ("look at the birdie"), intended to make people look directly at the camera.
- In Sweden, "Säg 'omelett'", meaning "Say 'omelette'" is often used.
- In Turkey, "Peynir", which means cheese, is often used.
- Cheese, the food to which this phrase refers