Said the actress to the bishop

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"Said the actress to the bishop" is an informal (and usually vulgar) exclamation, said for humour in the form of a punch line after an inadvertent double entendre. The equivalent phrase in North America is "that's what she said".[1][2] Both phrases are examples of Wellerisms, a literal "turn" of a phrase, changing its meaning. The versatility of the phrase and its popularity lead some to consider it a cliché.[3]

History and variations[edit]

The term, or its variant "as the actress said to the bishop", may have been used as far back as Edwardian times, and is apparently British in origin.[4]

The phrase is frequently used by the fictional character Simon Templar (alias "The Saint") in a long-running series of mystery books by Leslie Charteris. The phrase first appears in the inaugural Saint novel Meet the Tiger, published in 1928.[1] The version "as the girl said to the soldier" appears in a recorded sound test for Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 film Blackmail.[5]

Kingsley Amis uses the line in his 1954 novel Lucky Jim, where a woman offering relationship advice to Jim Dixon says "I can't show you, as the actress said to the bishop."

By 1973, "that's what she said" had already been characterized as an "ancient one-liner".[6] In the early 1990s, it was popularized as a recurring joke in the Saturday Night Live sketch "Wayne's World". In the movie of the same name, the character, Wayne Campbell, uses the phrase after his partner Garth says, "Hey, are you through yet? 'Cause I'm getting tired of holding this", in regard to a picture he is holding.[2] An 1896 recording by Len Spencer of the song "All Coons Look Alike to Me" includes the suggestive line[original research?] "That's what she said, yeah."[7]

In the original BBC version of The Office, Ricky Gervais's character David Brent frequently used the phrase "as the actress said to the bishop" as an inappropriate joke. When the show was adapted for American audiences, the phrase was translated to "that's what she said" for Steve Carell's character Michael Scott. "That's what she said" became a catchphrase of The Office and was used for the show's "That's What She Said" Sweepstakes.[8]


  1. ^ a b The British Equivalent of 'That's What She Said' Today I Found Out
  2. ^ a b International 'that's what she said' day. Newsvine. February 15, 2007.
  3. ^ "That's What She Said? Yeah, Give It A Rest" The Verge. GQ online
  4. ^ Partridge, Eric (1982). A Dictionary of Catch Phrases (2 ed.). London: Routledge. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-415-05916-9. 
  5. ^ Nicholas Graham (2010-06-10). "Hitchcock's 'That's What She Said' Joke Is Its First Known Recording! (video)". The Huffington Post. 
  6. ^ Addeo, Edmond G.; Burger, Robert E. (1973). EgoSpeak: Why No One Listens to You. Chilton Books. ISBN 0801958938. Retrieved 2012-09-28. The cheapest shot of all, of course, is the ancient one-liner, "That's what she said " This reply can be used after virtually any remark, however innocent, and the speaker can summon up some hint of double-entendre. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Office Launches 'That's What She Said' Sweepstakes. Buddy TV.

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