The phrase the what refers to an exploitable and reaction image macro of a woman with a lifeless stare and grin.
The image macro is mostly used as an exploitable on object labeling memes, to convey feelings of shock, confusion and disbelief, although it was originally used as a reaction image for murder coverups.
The original photo, depicting the woman with the concerningly lifeless stare comes from a Rug Doctor placard, which could be seen in numerous stores.
While the exact time of when the image turned into a meme is unknown, early examples emerged on Reddit in 2017, revolving around the concept of covering up a murder.
By June, 2017, the image had spread to various subreddits, as well as Instagram and Imgur.
The “the what” format of the meme first emerged in 2019, after people started organizing the Storm Area 51 event on Facebook.
This composition of the image macro grew more popular, as it spread across the subreddits of Reddit, as well as on to Twitter, Instagram, as well as Facebook.
- Theawesomedaily.com – The What! The Carpet Cleaning Meme Does a Double Take
- Cheezburger.com – ‘The What’ Memes Have Been Everywhere On The Internet Lately
- Reddit – r/meme