The “sheesh” meme on TikTok shows that the more things change about being a teenager, the more things stay the same.
When I was in high school, we always cycled through different ways of clowning on our friends. I have one trend I remember fondly: getting neck. If anyone, in any situation said, did or especially wore something that made them looks stupid, you could bet that the person sitting at the desk behind them would mutter, “yo, lemme get that neck,” and slap them right under the base of their skull, loud enough for everyone else to hear. It was a sign of shame, but also of camaraderie: We love you enough to make fun of you.
Being on TikTok is sometimes like being an unwitting observer of those kinds of trends. A new sound that’s taken over the platform, “Sheeeshhh,” is giving me a window into the slang of teenagers in a way that feels a little voyeuristic, but also pretty nostalgic.
The original clip for the sound “Sheeeshhh” was pretty simple. It’s a bunch of kids showing off their frog, Julio.
Julio seems like an extremely cool frog, but the sound itself is what matters on TikTok. Trends often follow viral audio clips, like the Chug Jug With You song, or the sound of Lil Nas X sliding down a stripper pole in the distance. Here, the sound “Sheeeshhh” is being used to accompany two kinds of audio clips. The first kind is where a group of people are making fun of someone else, usually in situations where that person doesn’t know they’re being made fun of:
The other kind of videos are of people are imagining their friends hyping them up in the future, usually over mundane accomplishments:
Because the sound is so popular, it’s also being added to clips where it’s completely removed from its original context, like this extremely specific joke about queer musician Dodie Clark:
One of my favorites imagines being in a Japanese class where everyone is learning the Japanese character that is pronounced as “shi.”
If you’re arriving at the meme once it’s been divorced of its context, everything about it feels indecipherable. It’s hard to even tell that the people in the clip are supposed to be saying “sheesh,” as the final “sh” sound is so quiet. But it isn’t as if this is a new trend for teenagers. This was something they were already doing, a slang term that was already popular, that’s now just being seen on a larger scale than before. They’re all already in on the joke because they’ve been making it with each other. The kids are alright. Now lemme get that neck.
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