Say cheese

Say "cheese" is an instruction used by photographers who are having difficulty getting their subject to smile. By saying "cheese", most people form their mouths into what appears to be a smile-like shape. Additionally, the absurdity of saying "cheese" for no apparent reason can incite glee in some people.

As this practice became ingrained into modern society, it has taken on the simple role of a final warning before a photograph is taken. Often subjects will simply use the phrase "say cheese" as a cue to enter their final pose and to smile, neglecting to actually say "cheese".

Over the years, many other words have been used in place of cheese. For comedic effect, a photographer might say "Say ______" filling the blank with a word relevant to the event or action he is photographing. (Ex. "Say wipe out" during a seaside photograph) Other times a person will fill the blank with an absurdist or seemingly entirely random word of their choice.

In other cultures

Perhaps due to strong Western influence, especially in the realm of photography, and perhaps due to increased numbers of Western visitors after photographic equipment became widely available, the phrase "Say Cheese" has also entered into the Japanese language. However, the word "say" is almost always dropped from the phrase, resulting in the phrase simply being "Cheese." This is usually pronounced in Japanese (and written in katakana) as "chiizu" (チーズ).

Other languages have adopted this method, albeit with different words that sound similar to cheese to get the desired effect of shaping the mouth to form a smile.

  • In China, the word used is 茄子 (qie2zi), meaning "eggplant."
  • In Korea, one says "kimchi."
  • In France and other French-speaking countries, the word "ouistiti," meaning marmoset, is often used.
  • In most Latin American countries, the phrase used is "Diga 'whiskey'" ("Say 'whiskey'").
  • In Spain, the usual word is "patata" ("potato").
  • In Brazil the phrase is "Olha o passarinho" ("Look at the little bird") or "Digam 'X'" ("Say 'X'").
  • In Denmark, "Sig 'appelsin'", meaning "Say 'orange'" is often used.

Cultural references

Author R. L. Stine wrote an adolescent horror book titled Say Cheese and Die, which is about a young boy who finds a camera that shows the people or objects he takes pictures of as skeletons or being involved in tragic incidents. Shortly after the picture is taken the incident portrayed in the photo actually happens.

Comedian Dane Cook does a bit about "Say Cheese" and how it is so arbitrary and meaningless yet pervasive.

See also

  • Cheese, the food to which this phrase refers

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