The Oral History of Memes: Where Did "Show Me the Receipts" Come From?

Before you use it, learn about it.

By Seija Rankin Aug 24, 2016 11:33 PMTags
Show Me the Receipts GIF

Memes are everywhere. They've taken over pop culture and began to find their way into almost every facet of our lives. From "Hey Girl" to "The Most Interesting Man" to "I Can Haz Cheezburger"—to invent a meme is to live on forever in infamy. But as these sayings and slogans start to take on a life of their own, the rest of the world typically forgets how they even started in the first place...or what they mean at all. That's where E! News comes in.

Show me the receipts!

If you're under the age of, say, 40, you've probably said this to someone. And if you've ever made an outlandish claim, someone has probably said this to you. It's the ultimate way to call someone's bluff, and/or call someone's bluff. This meme has been making the pop culture rounds for years, but it's now started to seep into our everyday vernacular. 

Your friend insists you got drunk and broke their lamp last weekend? Show me the receipts! David Beckham showed up to your coworker's SoulCycle class? Show me the receipts! Justin Bieber's ex-girlfriend posted and then deleted a naked photo of him? Receipts, if you will. 

Here Are the Best Olympic Memes to Come Out of Rio

But as much as this saying is a part of our collective daily lives these days, most people have probably totally forgotten that this whole pop culture phenomenon actually has its roots in a very serious journalistic endeavor—and the saying itself isn't even 100% correct.

It all started with Diane Sawyer. The newscaster sat down with the late pop star at her Atlanta home way back in 2002 for a tell-all interview tied to her upcoming album Just Whitney. Much of the interview focused on her tragic addictions, to which Houston raised the question about a headline that claimed Whitney had spent an exorbitant amount of money on drugs. 

"This says $730,00 drug habit," questioned Sawyer. "This is a headline."

To which Whitney gave an answer that would become the stuff of legends. "No way, no way," she began. "I wanna see the receipts. From the drug dealer that I bought $730,000 worth of drugs from. I wanna see the receipts."

And thus, out of true tragedy, a meme was born. Initially it was the clip that viral, with viewers marveling at her ability to be so sassy to someone as intimidating as Diane Sawyer. That quickly morphed into GIF form, because if that's not a GIF-able moment we don't know what is.

Then, thanks to the marvels of the Internet, the phrase grew and transformed into the meme behemoth it is today. Slowly but surely "I wanna see the receipts" was changed to "Show me the receipts," presumably because it just rolls off the tongue a bit easier. Cut to the summer of 2016, and it's perhaps the most ubiquitous comeback we have at our disposal. Blame it on the fact that our society is in the throws of a lot of questionable behavior, but something happens at least once a day that makes us want to see the receipts. 

Now, just wait until election season. 

Jared Leto Hugging Things