What does ‘whoosh’ mean on the internet?

Young woman frowning and pointing up with both hands.
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Has someone replied to you “whoosh” on social media or in a chat discussion? There may be something you don’t get. Here’s what it means and how to use it online.

Missing joke

On the Internet, “whoosh” means that someone missed the point of the original post, especially not being able to figure out what was meant to be a joke or sarcasm. If someone replies to you with “annoyance,” there’s a very good chance you’ve missed something. For example, one person posted, “Wow, we should burn all the books in the library” as a joke. If you answer with a lengthy article about the importance of keeping the script in writing, someone will likely respond with “annoyance.”

People usually use it on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. There is an entire community on Reddit dedicated to people who have lost target in hilarious ways called “r/whoosh”. It’s become a joke across the website for people to respond to separate comments with “r/whoosh” in reference to the subreddit.

This slang term has many similarities to the acronym “OOTL”, which stands for “outside the loop”. Like OOTL, “whoosh” is popular on Reddit and describes someone who isn’t quite sure what’s going on. However, while someone who is “OOTL” usually asks for serious clarification, someone who has been “disturbed” may be confused about why they are turning to the back of the joke.

Related: What do “OOTL” and “ITL” mean, and how do you use them?

Origin of “Whoosh”

The term “whoosh” has been around for a long time, well before the internet meme. It started as an onomatopoeia of the sound something makes because it makes a quick humming sound, like a bird or a kite. On the other hand, “going over someone’s head” is an idiomatic expression that means failure to understand or understand something. Artists later combined these two into comics, visually representing characters missing from jokes by drawing something running over their heads.

Eventually, he made his way onto the Internet. The first definition of “whoosh” was created in the Urban Dictionary in 2004 and it reads, “Indicates that the joke just told was too complex for the listener to have crossed their minds.” In 2016, the term gained huge popularity when Redditors created the r/whoosh subreddit. In fact, “r/whoosh” has his own highly-voted entry in Urban Dictionary since 2018.

Reddit

Cartoon stick figure with kite flying with joke.
Vicente won

Compared to other social media sites, Reddit tends to have a very isolated subculture. Over the years, the user base has built up a repository of memes, jokes, and self-references that you wouldn’t know unless you were a frequent visitor to the website. That’s why there’s still some hostility towards people who don’t fully understand Reddit’s hilarious tone and unusual sense of humor. It’s one of the big reasons why a community like r/whoosh is one of the most popular sub-forums on the entire website.

On the other hand, people who miss very obvious jokes can be very funny. This is especially true if a person is quite serious about a topic while other users are playing around in the thread. Having someone unwittingly be the straight guy in a comic scenario has been around for decades.

It can be very difficult to watch sarcasm online, especially in text-only communities like Reddit. Despite this, Reddit can be quite harsh for people who can’t pick up on sarcastic comments. Many people append the phrase “/s” at the end of their posts to avoid confusion. If you see “/s” at the end of an internet response, it’s supposed to be quite sarcastic.

Since it’s an online meme, there are also plenty of visual representations of someone being ‘chunked’. The most common is a stick figure with the ‘dot’ or ‘joke’ flying over it, with edits like animations or generic avatars.

How to use Whoosh

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

  • “They were joking. r/whoosh dude.”
  • “Wosh. Maybe you should read that again.”
  • “This is absolutely painful by me.”

If you’re looking to learn about some other weird terms for Internet slang, check out our bits on board, IANAD, and IYKYK. You’ll be going online like a pro soon.

Related: What does “IYKYK” mean, and how do you use it?