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."
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.
oh to be a yellow lab napping on a windowsill overlooking a canal in Bruges pic.twitter.com/zrur4pq0bN
— amy (@greenanorak) February 29, 2020
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.
oh………….. to be a macaron on a chocolate ferris wheel https://t.co/cdxAQbBCpq
— lemon (tanuki) (@band_maiko) December 26, 2019
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.
ahh to be a single sheet of blank printer paper floating delicately between the world and a manila folder pic.twitter.com/ZEKgMkcv2u
— vote for bernie (@lil_morgy) February 11, 2020
Oh to be an art student with an apartment in soho living off of generational wealth and posting vintage Jean Paul Gaultier shirts on my Depop for fun for $600 and coming home to take pictures by my floorlength mirror for instagram, subtly getting my Pollock painting in the frame
— BOB RO$$ 👹 (@MeanMug_Mamii) February 6, 2020
“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.
oh to be a kitten sleeping in a plant pot while i get a little flower on my tiny kitten ear pic.twitter.com/KnHojAVoLo
— Juulio (@juliopineda327) February 24, 2020
oh to be a tiny snail having a kiss on some cherries pic.twitter.com/yGDt1yfzVN
— vale (@valentinavml) February 19, 2020
oh to be a frog descending in water https://t.co/RR6OuKrmN4
— queen quen (@quenblackwell) January 28, 2020
oh to be a white man getting looked at by zendaya like that https://t.co/U1gD6gqRZi
— Jacobdaya bondi beach wedding 2.0 (@spideyshuris) February 4, 2020
oh to be a bear made of rice relaxing in a bowl of curry pic.twitter.com/cF5dex0xkL
— angel 🕊 (@sylveun) January 28, 2020
oh to be a doe hugging another doe in a field full of lavender pic.twitter.com/MLjihqdiZj
— bilatinthems ✧ (@coolado_) February 16, 2020
oh to be a cat in a vanessa stockard painting…. pic.twitter.com/PqyOFSsmqe
— clover (cram salesman) (@deityhearted) January 12, 2020
oh to be a tiny lizard licking an orange. pic.twitter.com/cmp47CD87m
— chloe (@LeoInLaurent) January 18, 2020
Oh to be a woman in the 1800s, diagnosed with hysteria and getting a lobotomy
— cal? (@cal_gif) February 17, 2020
oh to be a dog in a bowl pic.twitter.com/IUuc2sSIYP
— 🧸 (@fr0gsp1t) January 12, 2020
oh to be a beagle sitting on top of my large cow friends pic.twitter.com/JovKvn7Y1H
— trish (@ULTRAGLOSS) January 7, 2020
oh to be a tiny cat on a large couch https://t.co/0ABMOfyVWF
— cody 🦝 (@CdyRnkn) January 16, 2020
oh to be a lesbian lying to nev schulman and abusing mtv’s funds to meet your long distance girlfriend
— 🐲🐉 (@employedforwhat) February 19, 2020
oh to be a frog tapioca pearl pic.twitter.com/jqyV1oUIkZ
— 🦦 (@taeyangerines) February 12, 2020
oh to be a capybara deep in thought in a hot spring in japan listening to patsy cline https://t.co/zoAOpxH1gG
— michaels watermelon bby (@frddrstsrdht) January 19, 2020
Oh to be a tiny bear cub dancing in the forest with my friends https://t.co/0b4nnZNAWk
— yaya (@malyelff) February 17, 2020
Oh to be grocery shopping with FKA twigs watching her walk around with a sustainable wicker basket pic.twitter.com/MF196gCrNt
— alaina (@BAPTIZZED) February 21, 2020
oh to be an iphone resting in a womans tits while she does jojo poses in her flamboyant red robe… https://t.co/j1sIpYh4Nr
— ໊ (@x1yeons) January 29, 2020
Oh to be a fluffy Japanese pancake https://t.co/T64ZwXzkuM
— linds (@canterbunny) February 4, 2020
oh to be a carpet saturated with water and scraped clean https://t.co/kvwd5UTC2D
— ˗ˏˋ ryn ˎˊ˗ (@onlineryn) January 19, 2020