Twenty days into the year, one piece of news broke that defined a rabid and explosive corner of online discourse: M&M’s unveiled its “more progressive and dynamic” new mascot designs. Orange was going to acknowledge his anxiety (good for him). Red was going to tone down the bossiness (character growth). But Green was shown without her false lashes. Without her flirtatious poses. Without her thigh-high white go-go boots. They de-sexified Ms. Green.
You remember, we remember. Mayhem ensued. First, there were the memes about the new Green, who now was sporting what appeared to be fake Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. Culture writer EJ Dickson wrote, “Let the Green M&M Be a Nasty Little Slut.” Some people wondered why they downgraded her footwear game so much. Others thought she should be allowed to be cute and comfortable. Tucker Carlson filmed a very long rant about the ~woke agenda~, complaining that the brown M&M had become “less sexy.” Then people wondered if Tucker Carlson actually wanted to have sex with a cartoon candy. We were 20 days into the year.
2. West Elm Caleb
Much like with “Couch Guy” in 2021, a mob of TikTokers banded together this year to launch a ruthless and disproportionate pile-on against some random dude. It all started in January, when one woman in New York made a TikTok about getting ghosted by a Hinge date whose name was Caleb. The comments came quickly — “Is it the West Elm guy?” one person asked. “NO WAY I MATCHED WITH HIM TOO,” another wrote.
Within days, TikTok was full of women saying they too had gone out with the 25-year-old furniture designer for West Elm and had also been ghosted or subjected to other miscellaneous fuckboy-ery. Quickly things got out of hand — screenshots of his Hinge profile were soon circulating on TikTok, tabloids published his full name, and brands joined in in droves. Tons of commenters flooded West Elm’s social media with calls for him to be fired. The response turned out to be wildly outsize in comparison to the accusations against him; one person said he’d sent her an unsolicited dick pic, but besides that, people basically said he’d ghosted, “love-bombed” them, or was dating multiple women at once...which, sure, kinda sucks, but in the normal and nonabusive way any veteran dating app user can probably attest to.
In an unexpected twist, the TikToker whose video started it all had actually been talking about a different guy named Caleb. But once the wheels of the online public-shaming machine get rolling, there’s no stopping it.
3. Corn Kid
One wholesome main character the internet couldn’t get enough of this year was Tariq from the now ridiculously viral “It’s corn” video. In August, the TikTok account Recess Therapy posted a video of 7-year-old Tariq gushing about how much he loves the edible grain. The adorable way Tariq says, “For me, I really like corn,” and the fact that he “can’t imagine a more beautiful thing” captivated social media. South Dakota even named Tariq its official “corn-bassador.”
This year also saw the resurgence of viral audio song remixes, and Corn Kid got in on the action. The musical remix of the video is the sixth most viewed TikTok video of 2022, with all proceeds from the song going to Tariq and his family. And how many streams does it have on Spotify, you ask? 18 million! It certainly had the juice.
In July, hordes of young men donned their finest suits to watch Minions: The Rise of Gru. TikTok user Bill Hirst posted a video at the end of June of him and his friends going to see the film in their suits in Sydney, sparking the Gentleminions trend. Hirst told NBC News that 15 of them went to the theater wearing suits they already had on from their school formal.
BuzzFeed News spoke to a group of friends who were behind one of the first viral videos of the trend. “The film was fantastic and I would watch it again,” said Sebastian John, who uploaded a TikTok of him and his friends at the movies. “I have always liked Minions. I feel like it’s a movie that isn’t only just for kids, as I believe an adult could come and watch and have the same experience.”
Some movie theaters banned the so-called Gentleminions due to rowdy behavior during screenings. Ed Swift, a teen who called himself a “professor in Gru-ology,” told BuzzFeed News that it was a shame that the wholesome trend had gotten out of hand. “Our screening wasn’t exactly silent but we remained peaceful and respectful of others around us,” Swift said.
Minions will be gracing our screens again in 2024 when Despicable Me 4 comes out, so only time will tell if this trend will happen all over again.
5. Kim K’s Business Advice
Kim Kardashian gave some not-so-inspiring advice to women in business in a Variety interview in March. “Get your fucking ass up and work — it seems like nobody wants to work these days,” the billionaire said. Major backlash ensued, as people criticized the already rich and well-connected woman for ignoring her privilege. Kim wound up apologizing, saying her words were taken out of context, a claim Variety denied.
Sesame Street’s resident furry red monster was one of the biggest meme stars of the year, with several of his catchiest quips going viral as TikTok sounds. The first, in which Elmo sings in a 2020 episode about building with a “plastic water bottle and a paper towel roll” after running out of blocks, blew up on TikTok in late December 2021 and early January 2022. Days after that clip took off, so did one from a 2017 episode in which Elmo (flanked by none other than Jason Derulo) sings about how anyone can dance. “Elmo’s dance is to fly and zoom like a plane. But, some days, Elmo chugs ALOOOONG LIKE A TRAIN!” he belts out, in a line that fittingly inspired a bevy of TikTok dances. In the wake of these trending audios, several more of Elmo’s iconic quotes went viral, especially ones where he cooks with “balsamic vinegar” and declares apple juice to be “delicious.”
But the Sesame Street star’s most memeable moment came from his decadeslong feud with a rock. A snippet from a 2004 episode — in which Elmo visibly seethed after his friend Zoe wouldn’t let him have an oatmeal raisin cookie, saying it was for her pet rock, Rocco — blew up on Twitter in early January. More clips quickly went viral showing the typically good-natured muppet losing his damn mind over his pal’s inanimate object companion, sparking tons of jokes about Elmo’s palpable rage.
Elmo himself commented on the controversy, tweeting that he and Zoe had patched things up. “Don't worry everybody! Elmo and Zoe practiced sharing and are still best buds forever! Elmo loves you Zoe! Ha ha ha!” the tweet said. “Elmo doesn't want to talk about Rocco.”
The suffix of the year was, undoubtedly, “-ussy.” Its applications were boundless — the hole in a volcano? Why, that’s the Earth’s crussy. The tunnel from the plane to the boarding gate? The connectussy, of course.
Though “-ussy” took off as a meme in 2022, its origins date way further back in historussy. “Bussy” — a portmanteau of “boy pussy” — has been a queer slang term for years, showing up on Urban Dictionary as early as 2004. In 2017, -ussified words had a big moment thanks to Ditty videos. This year, the -ussification came to TikTok, particularly in the comment section before becoming all but inescapable all across the internussy. Even Lizzo sang about her Balenci-ussies.
8. Lea Michele Can't Read
Can Lea Michele read? The conspiracy theory–turned-meme has circulated since 2017, when it was first jokingly floated on the pop culture podcast One More Thing based on an anecdote from her former Glee costar Naya Rivera’s memoir, which claimed Michele refused to improvise scenes during filming.
The theory came back in a huge way in July when it was announced that Michele would replace Beanie Feldstein in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl, an onstage upheaval that became some of the year’s juiciest celebrity gossip. Michele had already been under scrutiny for alleged mistreatment of her Glee costars, and seeing her step into the role the Rachel Berry had starred in was some wildly meta life-imitates-art weirdness.
And as the musical was revived, so were the memes about Michele’s purported illiteracy. People wondered how she could possibly learn her lines. Then, a selfie became a shorthand for the meme. Instagram followers began “translating” their comments to emojis under her posts. Michele initially slammed it as sexist, but then changed her tune and leaned into the joke, even making a TikTok where she called her friend and former costar Jonathan Groff to ask him to read the comments to her. Then Jameela Jamil came to defend Michele, prompting more memes. That’s showbiz, baby.
9. American Girl Doll Memes
Memes featuring American Girl dolls were huge in 2022, especially among nostalgic millennial and Gen Z women. Instagram accounts with names cheekily based on the dolls, like @hellicity_merriman and @klit.klittredge, blew up in June, with many of the posts proposing new additions to the collection of historically themed dolls, like an “American Girl doll who set the Library of Alexandria on fire” or one who “ate someone while traveling with the Donner Party.” Others played off more relatable modern history, with suggestions for a doll “who recruited her classmates for a Kony 2012 walkout” or “who developed an unhealthy attachment to the Rainforest Cafe.” The “we need an American Girl doll who ____” memes (reminiscent of 2018’s “we need a Disney princess” meme) also spread on Twitter, with appeals for dolls who unionized their workplace, fell for a viral Instagram scam, or hooked up with a dude who later stormed the Capitol.
10. He’s a 10 But...
In June, two sisters, Mary and Leah Woods, completely changed the art of ranking men with a little game called “He’s a 10 But...” “He’s a 6, but he drives a nice truck. What does that make him?” 23-year-old Leah asks in the first TikTok. “An 8,” says her friend, Lucy. “7.5,” Mary replies. Their video took off organically, and before they knew it, people everywhere were referencing it. “He’s a 10, but he only eats when you airplane the food into his mouth,” said one TikTok.
The key to the game is making it about actions, not appearances.
“If it’s about body shape or things like that, it’s like, no, that’s just mean,” Leah told BuzzFeed News, noting that they wanted the game to be lighthearted. “If it’s something funny, then I think guys are totally able to play it because that’s how we’ve kept it. We’ve kept it funny, and we’ve kept it things that, 99% of the time, you can change.”
11. Verified Twitter Parodies
Elon Musk’s messy battle for control on Twitter began with him promising us that “comedy was now legal,” but then devolved into a perpetual cycle of half-baked executive decisions met with widespread mockery, spurring even worse executive decisions that prompt even more mockery. Much of this debate centered largely around Twitter verification and the controversial Twitter Blue paid verification function.
To point out flaws in the system, verified users began trolling Musk by impersonating government figures and brands. Insulin company Eli Lilly's stock plummeted after a verified Twitter parody account tweeted that insulin was now free. People pretended to be Musk. Musk then announced that you were no longer allowed to change your display name. Doja Cat’s account name got stuck as “christmas.” He continued to make decisions that brought about more clowning and then made decisions based on that clowning. We may look back on this time as the beginning of the end for Twitter, but at least we’ll have the memes to remember it by.
12. Sleepytime Bear
Welcome to sleepy girlfriend season — it’s time to say goodbye to the grind, get snug as a bug in a rug, and shift into soup mode. Sleepytime Bear, the mascot for Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime tea, became a folk hero for taking a little nap and getting cozy in bed. Amid discourse about “quiet quitting” and burnout, Sleepytime Bear encapsulated our desire to slow down, take it easy, and let out our inner “honkshoo mimimimi.”
13. Cheating Men
It all kicked off in September, when a woman who claimed she’d had an affair with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine leaked screenshots of their DMs on TikTok. Three more women then came forward, revealing horny messages purportedly from the singer, who is married to supermodel Behati Prinsloo. Celeb cheating scandals may be dime a dozen, but what made this one so (unfortunately) unforgettable were the sexts — they were so bad, they were all but begging to be memed. (Levine denied having an affair, but admitted to sending “inappropriate” messages.)
Little did we know, Levine’s cringey sexts were just a harbinger of what was to come. Just days later, Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka, fiancé of actor Nia Long, was suspended over an alleged relationship with a staff member. Less than a week after that, the Try Guys’ Ned Fulmer was kicked out of the group after admitting he cheated on his wife (or as he put, “lost focus and had a consensual workplace relationship,” a phrase that’s become a meme in its own right). In November, Good Morning America anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, both of whom were married, were revealed to be having an affair with each other.
14. It’s Not the Vibe, Stop
One of the biggest TikTok audios of the year, “IT’S NOT THE VIBE, STOP,” was the quintessential way to express frustration in 2022. The clip comes from a July 2021 vlog from conservative YouTuber Alexandra Pierce, aka HRH Collection, who unleashed the guttural reproach while expressing her hatred of “beachy waves” as a hairstyle. An edited version that upped the drama with Skyrim sound effects first appeared on Tumblr in November 2021, according to Know Your Meme, and was then reposted to TikTok.
15. Negroni Sbagliato
When Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke sat down for an HBO Max interview to promote House of the Dragon, an audio clip about their preferred alcoholic drinks suddenly filled the power vacuum as the official hot-person beverage. “Negroni. Sbagliato. With prosecco in it,” D’Arcy says with a vaguely flirtatious intonation that quickly became a meme with its own viral TikTok audio. People started ordering the drink en masse at bars, and thousands of people uploaded their own attempts at creating the recipe. The hashtag has 60.8 million views on TikTok, and their dialogue has become an irreplaceable exchange among queer women this year.
16. The Rats Don’t Run This City, We Do
Government officials were just trying to announce when New Yorkers should take their trash out. But when sanitation commissioner Jessica Tisch spoke at the October press conference, she uttered one of the hardest lines of the year: “The rats are absolutely going to hate this announcement ... but the rats don’t run this city, we do.”
The iconic quote, delivered without an ounce of humor, was an instant sensation. The audio went viral on TikTok, where it was used in thousands of videos, usually about triumphing over the metaphorical “rats” of one’s own life. The meme became especially popular with Taylor Swift fans, who remixed it with her song “Welcome to New York” and imagined her delivering the speech onstage.
17. Uncah Jams
Julia Fox may have made her debut in the 2019 film Uncut Gems, but it wasn’t until 2022 that she made her debut into the meme canon. During her whirlwind one-month-long romance with Kanye West, Fox gave an interview to the podcast Call Her Daddy about what it meant to be “Ye’s muse.”
“I mean, I was Josh Safdie’s muse when he wrote Uncut Gems, you know?” she said, with a flourish of drawn-out vocal fry that made it sound something like uncah jaaaaams. Her creative take on the pronunciation went viral and was widely imitated on TikTok. But what inspired the muse’s unique way with words? “Omggggg I was stoned leave me alone!!!!” the actor commented on Page Six’s Instagram post about the meme.
18. The Awful TikTok Sex Song
If you’re on TikTok regularly, you’ve probably seen those videos of someone reading a Reddit post while a video game plays in the background. Well, one of those videos was about a guy finding out his girlfriend hates the music he plays during sex — specifically, this song. In the post, redditor TylerLife claimed that he would use the song to find a rhythm and said it was his favorite song. People theorized which part of the song he used to find the beat and how exactly he moved to it, leading thousands of people to clown on him. Three days later, the poster returned with an update: He’d been dumped after his girlfriend’s sister figured out he was the one behind the post.
The song, “Cbat” by Hudson Mohawke, was fairly unknown until it became a meme. Some wondered if it had been a guerrilla marketing campaign to make the song go viral, a theory the artist denied. The funniest part of it all? As widely known as the song now is, people still think it’s trash.
19. Don’t Worry Darling
Olivia Wilde’s thriller-drama Don’t Worry Darling and its premiere at the Venice Film Festival became the main character of monthslong Twitter debates, giving way to several widely scrutinized social media moments (Florence Pugh vs. Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles Spitgate, Nick Kroll and Gemma Chan being caught in the middle of it all) and, of course, lots of memes — most notably, Chris Pine completely disassociating during the premiere press conference. Amid all the feuds, rumors, and Hollywood speculation, Chris Pine’s blank face, staring between space and time, became the most iconic image of the entire highly analyzed debacle. What an accurate summary of this year.
20. Screaming, Crying, Throwing Up
Stan Twitter is all too familiar with the phrase “screaming crying throwing up,” but this was the year it entered the mainstream. Since at least 2020, fans of pop culture have used it to describe the feeling of being overcome with emotion, to the point that you want to, well, scream, cry, and throw up. The phrase has popped up in Harry Styles fancams on TikTok, and Swifties got the phrase to trend on Twitter over the summer. Though usually used to express intense joy and excitement, at times it’s also been used to express the opposite — one Tiktok user said they were screaming, crying, and throwing up when they witnessed a neighbor’s drain snake coming out of their shower.
21. RIP Queen Elizabeth
When Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8, many around the world mourned — and others memed. The symbol of the British monarchy and the actions under the Queen’s reign meant a lot of people wanted to talk about her life serving as a reminder of oppression and colonialism.
People edited their idea of the royals’ BeReals that day. People wondered if she died thinking Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine. Alpha male fitness influencer Liver King appeared at the gates of Buckingham Palace to lift weights. “Lizzy’s in a box,” people sang from the stands during an Irish soccer match. Brands such as Heinz and Crazy Frog paid their respects for whatever reason. People shared the conspiracy that maybe she had already been dead for months. The day itself was historic, but the online response made it a historic day for posters around the world. God save the memes.
22. I Wanna Kill My Mom
A 6-year-old boy singing, “I wanna kill my mom / I wanna kill my dad,” started popping up all over TikTok in September. The child wasn’t acting out — it was actually a prank video, originally posted on YouTube by the DuB Family, titled “Woo Wop Acts Emo Front Of Everyone.” The clip went viral on TikTok, and the audio became a huge meme, with one video using the sound paired with a cat in a bathroom shaking off water, captioned, “when I tried saving mom in the shower and I almost drowned.”
A full song of the audio was released on Spotify, with the autotuned 6-year-old singing about wanting to kill his family members over a catchy hip-hop beat. Woo Wop has since gone and performed onstage. He later released another song, “Just Wanna Wop,” where he apologized for saying he’d kill his parents, rapping, “I love my grandma / I love my mom / I would not kill you.”
Marvel’s 2022 film starring Jared Leto may have been a massive flop, but it will go down in history as one of the great movie memes of the year. Released in US theaters April 1, Morbius instantly bombed at the box office and was widely mocked by critics and Marvel fans alike. Memes making fun of the movie took off, with people joking about how no one was seeing it, rooting for a “Morbius sweep” at awards season, and coining the fake catchphrase “it’s Morbin’ time.”
After gaining traction as a meme, Sony tried rereleasing Morbius in theaters, and...it completely flopped for a second time. Nonetheless, more than 30,000 people signed a petition calling for the movie to return to the big screen for a third time because “we were all busy that weekend.”
24. My Money Don’t Jiggle Jiggle
One of the most memorable raps of the year came, oddly enough, from a 52-year-old British American documentarian. If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, you probably know it well: “My money don’t jiggle jiggle, it folds / I’d like to see you wiggle wiggle, for sure,” Louis Theroux raps in the opening bars.
Despite being one of TikTok’s biggest hits in 2022, the rap actually first appeared in the year 2000, on an episode of Theroux’s BBC Two docuseries Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, a show exploring different subcultures. In the episode, titled “Gangsta Rap,” Theroux met rappers in the American South, including Mississippi-based rap duo Reese & Bigalow, who helped the host craft his own track, according to the New York Times. In 2016, the series had a resurgence in popularity when it came to Netflix in the UK.
Flash-forward to February 2022, Theroux appeared on the YouTube interview show Chicken Shop Date and, at the request of host Amelia Dimoldenberg, gave a quick, deadpan rendition of his old rap. British DJ duo Duke & Jones remixed the clip, which then went viral on TikTok — particularly after TikTokers Jess Qualter and Brooke Blewitt turned it into a dance. Their choreography became a massive TikTok trend, with tons of people, including celebrities like Megan Thee Stallion and the Riverdale cast making their own versions.
25. Taylor Swift’s Private Jet
Following the release of a report in July that showed Taylor Swift topped the list of celebrities with the worst private jet carbon dioxide emissions, Swift faced major backlash — and major memeing. People razzed the star for her environmental impact, many making jokes imagining her hopping onboard for a quick jaunt to the store or to take her cats to the vet. A spokesperson for Swift pushed back against the report, saying Swift frequently loans out her jet and therefore wasn’t on all the flights herself, a defense that many said missed the point and shirked responsibility.
The controversy blew over pretty quickly, but in October, when she released Midnights, a line from her song “Snow on the Beach” raised some eyebrows. “And my flight was awful, thanks for asking,” she sang. “It’s YOUR plane,” @legotrillermoth tweeted.
26. Goblin Mode
A memory from this year: Julia Fox, one of 2022’s biggest stars and noted “Uncah Jams” muse in the midst of her breakup with Kanye West. Twitter user and part-time troll Juniper posted a doctored headline: “Julia Fox opened up about her ‘difficult’ relationship with Kanye West: ‘He didn’t like when I went goblin mode,’” it stated. Vogue picked the story up, falling for a fake quote that many had believed to be real. Fox even went on her Instagram to debunk the story, saying she had never actually said “goblin mode.” But it was too late.
Even if Fox hadn’t gone “goblin mode,” the term captured the feral, goblinesque mood of the year. At the end of the day, 2022 was a very raw and emotional year, and no other phrase could better capture the hyperbolic feeling of being hidden away in our homes (caves) feeling positively chaotic — it was even named Oxford’s word of the year.
27. Josh Hawley Running
When a far-right mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley showed them his support, raising his fist in solidarity. But Hawley wasn’t as tough as he was trying to look — surveillance footage, which was revealed in July during a House Jan. 6 Committee hearing, showed him sprinting through the Capitol to escape the rioters just moments later. The video set off audible laughter from people attending the hearing in person, and memes mocking the lawmaker were all over Twitter faster than...well, faster than Hawley. There were a whole lot of “he’s running” jokes, and even a whole thread of the clip set to various songs like “Chariots of Fire” and “Born to Run.”
28. Let’s Get the Bill, Purr
Nowadays, a trip to a restaurant is no longer complete without uttering the words, “Let’s get the bill, purr.” The phrase precedes 2022, as the TikTok first went viral in 2020, when @CleoTrapa posted a sketch of herself asking for a bill at a restaurant and opening her purse, obviously waiting for her date to tell her he is paying. A reposted version of the video went viral again early this year, exposing the meme to a whole new audience. Many have been using the video to discuss literally getting the receipt at a restaurant, but one user also captioned their video, “After we’re done loudly discussing our sex life in a busy restaurant.” One TikToker paired the audio with a video of herself at the hospital after having her newborn and before the big hospital bill came, using the caption, “me after giving birth in 10 minutes.”
When you’re faced with the creeping dread of environmental doom, sometimes all you can do is post through it. That’s what happened in late March, when Dutch scientists made headlines after discovering the presence of microplastics in human blood — the effects of which remain uncertain, but sound...potentially not great??? People coped by leaning into dark humor, with hilarious and bleak memes as plentiful as the tiny plastic fragments rattling around inside our bodies.
30. As an Empath
While this meme has been around for years, the mockery of self-identified empaths hit a new high at the start of 2022. TikTok user @lillunah kicked it off with a sincere video at the tail end of 2021 about “the struggles of being an empath,” set to some dark and dramatic music. People quickly picked up on the audio, using the opportunity to revive the empath memes. “Me (an empath) walking into a hospital,” @ethanp0iss0n captioned his version, “Sensing that these people may be in pain for some reason.”
Throughout the year it continued, becoming a way for people to make memes about traumatic events, discuss the ways the term “empath” is flawed, or poke fun at the chronically online discourse of it all. And in the year of several high-profile wellness influencer scams and conversation around how much online analysis is too much, this may not be an entirely new meme, but it just might be a defining one.
Hot dogs have been rebranded, and it’s become the undercurrent of memes throughout the year. Originally a DC area slang term meaning a gun, “glizzy” has become synonymous with hot dogs in recent years (for example, a “glizzy gladiator” is a hot dog–eating champion), and the term has spiked and trended upward in usage since 2020, according to Google search trends. In 2022, society hit Peak Glizzy. We saw glizzy hands in Everything Everywhere All at Once. A glizzy joint opened in Brooklyn. The glizzification took TikTok by storm — people turned their refrigerators into glizzy dispensers, did glizzy challenges, and really just got more creative with their glizzy consumption than you could probably imagine.
Who knew how important two minutes in a day would become in 2022? The social media app BeReal birthed so many memes throughout the year — sometimes wholesome, sometimes hilariously dark. From the yield sign emojis letting us know it’s time to ⚠️BeReal⚠️ to doctored BeReals from any other pop culture context, the infrastructure of this app found its way into several meme iterations. People shared the sentiment of hoping their BeReal would go off while they were doing something fun. Others shared the reactions to their questionable BeReals. Harry Styles took a BeReal at his concert. The hashtag #bereal has over 3.4 billion views on TikTok. Get your phones out. It’s time to BeReal.
33. It’s a Chicken Salad
A video of a woman eating a chicken salad, posted by a deli in Cleveland, went super viral in August. “Y’all better come here and get one of these,” the woman in the video, Tanisha Godfrey, can be heard saying. “What’s that?” someone asks. “It’s a chicken salad,” she answers between bites.
Since it was first posted, the video now has 26 million views, and many people went to the deli to taste their famous chicken salad. Although it was originally posted to promote 81st Deli, neither the owner nor Godfrey expected it to become such a major meme. People didn’t just use the sound on TikTok — many also started saying “it’s a chicken salad” in the same cadence as Godfrey. Couples pranked their partners by saying the phrase randomly, often interrupting them playing video games and reciting the audio into their headsets. One TikToker took the pranking a step further and got her boyfriend a Build-a-Bear that played the viral audio.
Godfrey now has more than 200,000 followers on her own TikTok and told Today she hopes to continue using her account to promote local Cleveland restaurants. She’s since partnered with Weight Watchers on a recipe — the “Nisha Chicken Salad,” of course — and said she turned down an offer from Google after the corporation lowballed her.
34. Girl Yelling in Guy’s Ear at a Festival
Also called the “So Basically” and the “Girl Explaining Meme,” this image of a girl yelling into someone’s ear at a music festival reintroduced a meme format for women to share their expertise about very specific subjects. Think of it as the highbrow version of “Guy Yelling in Girl’s Ear at the Club,” but instead of the punchline being something you have no interest in or already know, the meme became the perfect platform for niche drama explainers, fandom lore, celebrity relationship timelines, and more. The woman in the photo, Denise “Denu” Sanchez, told Know Your Meme that it was taken at a club in Buenos Aires in 2019, when she and her then-boyfriend wound up in the background of someone else’s photo.
35. Watch This
In June, Usher graced us with an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, where he performed his 2004 hit single “Confessions, Pt. II.” During the song, Usher whispered, “watch this” and gestured to his eyes, a moment that instantly became a meme. Someone doubting you’ll actually sit on the couch for eight hours straight, or foolishly thinking they’re about to beat you in Uno? Well then, watch this.
In an interview with Twitter Music, Usher said the moment was unplanned and he’s not sure what inspired it, but that he was “blown away” by how much the meme spread. It even made its way to political Twitter when New York Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted it, after which people declared the meme dead. RIP to a good but all-too-fleeting meme.
36. Spirit Halloween
By the time Oct. 31 rolled around, we had already gone through so many memes and zeitgeist-y moments. How could we distill them into Halloween costumes? Enter: the Spirit Halloween costume edits. The brand already had its own mystical meme history, occupying random empty lots and recycling and rebranding costumes, but 2022’s memes had their own refreshing spin on costumes. There were your basic editions, like the “ad tech douchebag” or an oldest sibling. Some went the meta route, referencing other memes or beloved pop culture figures. Celebrities like Lil Nas X and Kim Petras also got in on the joke, as did brands such as Subway. The only one who wasn’t having it was Spirit Halloween, who went into the replies to clarify that, in fact, it was not selling these costumes. But less than a week later, the company was engaging with the memes.
37. The Slap
Yes, it was this year. While presenting at the Oscars in March, Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, to which her husband, Will Smith, didn’t take too kindly. Smith walked onstage and slapped Rock across the face on live TV. The slap quickly became one of the most-talked-about cultural moments of the year — a video of it was the second-most-watched YouTube video of 2022 — so naturally there were memes aplenty.
A clip from the Amazon Prime satirical superhero series The Boys, in which the character Homelander kills someone and is surprised to find he’s applauded for it, became a huge (and kind of dark) meme over the summer.
Stemming from Black vernacular (AAVE), “be fucking for real” has long been a phrase, appearing on Twitter as early as 2012, but it entered wider usage on social media this year. “BFFR,” TikTok user @liyahhh.38 said in her now-viral audio, “What does that spell? Be fucking for real.” Many also credited user @kyahnextdoor, for commenting the acronym under several TikToks, and the rapper Slump6s, who said the phrase on Instagram Live, from which @imajuggernautlol created another popular audio. In the year of BeReal and being for real, BFFR was most definitely the phrase we needed to encapsulate our feelings of the year. “‘be fucking fr’ gotta be the best phrase to come out of 2022,” one person tweeted.
40. Nicole Kidman's AMC Ad
Nicole Kidman’s iconic AMC ad came out in September 2021, but in 2022 it blossomed into a full-on camp phenomenon with a cult following to match. The commercial, which was made to promote the movie theater chain after the pandemic shuttered dozens of cinemas, was wildly over the top. Kidman enters an AMC theater in a glittering pinstripe suit and stilettos as an orchestra of violins and pianos plays an emotive score and she waxes poetic about the magic of a trip to the movies. “Somehow heartbreak feels good in a place like this,” she says at one point, a line so melodramatic it became a sensation.
The ad found a huge fandom in the months after its release, with cinemagoers regularly applauding — or even standing to salute — when it played on the big screen, and it inspired Halloween costumes, drag performances, an SNL parody, and even prayer candles. All hail Leader Kidman, thank you for saving the movies.
41. Okay, I Like It, Picasso
When @itsreefa posted a TikTok of a random exchange between him and a person in a purple cardboard dress, it immediately became one of the most recognizable catchphrases of the year, with big Vine energy. “What’s this?” one asks. “Um, it’s an art project,” the other says. “Okay, I like it, Picasso,” goes the punchline response.
The universality may not have been immediately obvious, but the more we said it throughout our daily lives (I did not make my bed today, it’s an art project, I have made my fifth struggle meal of the week, Picasso), it became a little affirmation, memeable to an infinite degree. And as we continued to live through historical events that made increasingly less sense, what else was there to say? Um, maybe it is an art project. Okay, I like it, Picasso.