What Does “Whoosh” Mean on the Internet?

A young woman frowning and pointing upward with both hands.
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Has someone replied to you with “whoosh” on social media or in a chat discussion? There might be something you’re not getting. Here’s what it means and how to use it online.

Missing the Joke

On the internet, “whoosh” means that someone’s missed the point of the original post, especially they were unable to catch that meant to be a joke or sarcasm. If someone replies to you with a “whoosh,” then there’s a very good chance that you’ve missed something. For example, someone posts, “Wow, we should just burn all the books in the library,” as a joke. If you reply with a lengthy essay about the importance of preserving the written text, someone will probably respond to you with a “whoosh.”

People commonly use it on social media websites like Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. There’s an entire community on Reddit devoted to people who miss the point in hilarious ways called “r/whoosh.” It’s become a running joke across the website for people to reply to obtuse comments with “r/whoosh” in reference to the subreddit.

This slang term has many similarities with the acronym “OOTL,” which stands for “out of the loop.” Like OOTL, “whoosh” is popular because of Reddit and describes someone who isn’t quite sure what’s going on. However, whereas someone that’s “OOTL” is normally earnestly asking for clarification, someone who’s been “whooshed” might be confused as to why they’ve become the butt of the joke.

RELATED: What Do “OOTL” and “ITL” Mean, and How Do You Use Them?

The Origin of the “Whoosh”

The term “whoosh” has been around for ages, far predating the internet meme. It started as an onomatopoeia for the sound something makes as it’s quickly whizzing by, such as a bird or a paper plane. On the other hand, “going over someone’s head” is an idiomatic expression that means failing to grasp or comprehend something. Artists later combined these two in comics, where they would visually represent characters missing jokes by drawing something going over their heads.

Eventually, it made its way to the internet. The first definition for “whoosh” on Urban Dictionary was created in 2004 and reads, “Indicates that the joke just told was too sophisticated for the listener and has gone way over their head.” In 2016, the term would gain massive popularity when Redditors created the r/whoosh subreddit. In fact, “r/whoosh” has its own highly upvoted entry on Urban Dictionary from 2018.

Reddit and r/Whoosh

Cartoon stick figure with paper airplane flying with a joke.
Vann Vicente

Compared to other social media websites, Reddit tends to have a very insular subculture. Over the years, the userbase has built up a repository of memes, in-jokes, and self-references that you’d only know if you frequent the website. That’s why there’s still some hostility towards people who don’t have a full grasp of Reddit’s jokey tone and off-kilter humor. It’s one of the big reasons why a community like r/whoosh is one of the most popular subreddits on the whole website.

On the other hand, people missing very obvious jokes can be very humorous. This is especially true if the person is entirely dead-serious about a topic while other users in the thread are playing around. Having someone be the unwitting straight man in a comedic scenario has been around for decades.

Sarcasm can be very difficult to catch on the internet, especially in text-only communities like Reddit. Despite that, Reddit can be quite harsh to people who can’t catch sarcastic comments. Many people append the phrase “/s” to the end of their posts to avoid confusion. If you see “/s” at the end of an internet response, then it’s intended to be completely sarcastic.

Since it’s an internet meme, there are also plenty of visual representations of someone being “whooshed.” The most common is a stick figure with “the point” or “the joke” flying over it, with modifications such as animations or portraits of a public figure.

How to Use “Whoosh”

To use “whoosh,” add it when you’re replying to someone who doesn’t understand the joke or the subject. If you’re on Reddit, you can use “r/whoosh” instead for full effect. Here are a few examples of this internet term in action:

  • “They were being sarcastic. r/whoosh dude.”
  • “Whoosh. Maybe you should read that again.”
  • “That completely whooshed by me.”

If you’re looking to learn about some other strange internet slang terms, check out our pieces on ship, IANAD, and IYKYK. You’ll be navigating the internet like a pro soon enough.

RELATED: What Does “IYKYK” Mean, and How Do You Use It?

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