"Oh."

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"Oh." or "Oh." is a phrase, commonly used in fanfiction, which in a specific use has become a trope and even a meme. This use is sometimes called the italicized oh or the italicized oh moment.

This "Oh" is not a simple expression of surprise, but is used to denote a pivotal moment of realization, often of a character's own feelings for someone, or of the fact that those feelings are reciprocated.

It is often used in sequence: "Oh. Oh." to better emphasize the slow but radical change in someone's understanding of a situation.

History

As a literary device, it is likely that the use of the "Oh." or "Oh." to express this idea has always existed.

However around 2018/2019, it seems to have gained more attention and to have become increasingly popular to the point of acquiring meme status around 2020/2021.

Presumably this increased popularity then led to an increase in its use, though it is difficult to obtain proper statistics to support this hypothesis.

Examples in fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Ray made a little noise and lifted his hands up; he cupped the side of Mikey's face with one and slid the other into his hair and all of Mikey's toes curled at once and he thought, oh. Oh.

"Oh," he said against Ray's mouth, and then, "I really love it when you do my hair, you know?"

Staring Through the Demons by Bexless (2011)
Brian stared at him, his eyes wide and desperate, and even then it took until he moved forward and put his hands on Gerard's hips for the penny to drop. Oh. Oh. Gerard was a fucking idiot. "Oh." He shifted his hips a little against Brian's hands, just to test it. Brian's grasp tightened, but he didn't drop his gaze from Gerard's eyes. "Oh," Gerard breathed. "You like me like this."
Pretty, Reckless by brooklinegirl (2012)
"... I did not want any other lover," Segundus admitted rather uncomfortably. Without his conscious permission, his hands had crept into Childermass's hair. It felt as electric as it had felt that spring day in the garden, soft and coarse at the same time, like unmilled silk.

"Oh," Childermass said. It was a soft, astonished sound. It made Segundus want to keep kissing him.

Hal-an-Tow by halsinator (2015)
It’s around the twelfth time he listens to the song that Matt catches a clue. He sees his media player’s stats and stares at them, unblinking, for a full minute. Twelve listens. Twelve? And he experiences what feels like an elaborate, slow-motion crash, like a cartoon character being hit by a massive anvil. Whenever I'm alone with you. Oh.

Oh. Oh no.

He closes his eyes slowly, painfully, and tips forward. This is appalling. He hits the desk with his face, and spends the next twenty or so minutes moaning, “no. No, no, noooo.”

The Price of Salt; or, Follow your confusion, it’ll lead you somewhere in the end. by emef (2015)
Oh. Oh. It is possible, just possible, that Lovett may have been wrong about a couple of things.
the air out of my lungs by imperfectcircle (2019)
It’s like watching Crowley break, this shivering, terrified creature clinging to him like he might disappear, and oh. Oh, Aziraphale thinks, feeling very small and fragile himself all of a sudden.
Someone Reaching Back For Me by mirawonderfulstar (2019)
“It is not Praxus I crave to see, my archivist. It is you.”

Oh. Oh. Orion swallowed, digits pressing harder against the screen, as if by sheer force of will he could break through to the mech he loved on the other side.

The mech he loved.

The mech he loved.
Contact by auri_mynonys (2019)
Moonlight is shining in through the high windows, and the floor gleams a rich mahogany. Lew does something he’s always wanted to: he runs a few steps and then skids in his socked feet until he almost falls over, and when he looks back Dick’s laughing and Lew’s laughing too and—

Oh.

Great Wars Like Ours by rilla (2020)
He’s not always nice but he’s one of the kindest people that Sokka has ever met.

...oh.

Oh.

The revelation is like a crash of ocean water over Sokka’s head.

Oh.

He stares at Zuko, his heart pounding, and feels very suddenly like he’s going to burst into flame.

Field And A River by Haicrescendo (2020)

Discussion & Meme Status

Discussion

Discussion of "Oh." in fanworks covers topics like its effects, whether it really has a special use, and whether the trope is overplayed and writers should lay off it:

The meme of fanfiction writers using "oh" has been getting traction over the past few months. I know that in our little fanfic world we tend to gravitate towards certain words/scenarios and such, but I wonder why "oh" in particular seems to have this power. I've used it before in my own fics, even in ones years back, so this isn't a new thing. I don't know which fic/fandom I even picked it up from. I didn't even realize how big of a thing this was until it got memed. Now I'm a lot more self conscious about it since I have used it in my original fiction (not recently, but in the past I have)

What about you guys? Have you found yourself using "oh" in your fics?

-- u/your-yogurt
It's about the dawning realization of something that should have been obvious that profoundly changes the interpretation that character has of their relationship with another character. That moment where everything clicks, and the world halts for a breath while our intrepid hero notices something intangible but very, very real, and now they have to adjust their entire world view and how they see themselves as well as how they see their love interest.

You bet your butt I've used it!

-- u/ryukohime

I’ve never heard of this!

-- u/Ok-Pepper8230

Yeah, I'm kind of confused? Like is the meme just that we overuse the word "Oh" in dialogue? I've never noticed that.

-- u/LuckyWatersAO3

discussion on r/Fanfiction, 2021
it’s even better when it’s like..

Oh.

Oh.

Tumblr comment on a reblog of the @yatogamis_ twitter post - rhoga, Nov 10, 2019
The italicized oh is my favorite thing in the whole world. I have no shame in it whenever I write one in.
Tumblr comment on a reblog of the @amyeeera twitter post - therealsaintscully, Sept 19, 2020

Memeification

Many memes have been created about the "Oh. Oh." moment, for example:

Use as reaction phrase

Many social media users use the phrase "italicized oh" to describe what is happening in a picture or gif they are posting, describing what the characters or people involved are feelings (i.e., "this picture is X having an 'italicized oh' moment.").

Another use developped off the back of that practice (?), in which variations on "italicized oh" by itself is used to describe the poster's own reaction to a piece of media that made them experience certain feelings. A simple twitter search for the term returned dozens of such uses concentrated over a few weeks of August 2021 (due to the limitations of the Twitter search tool), among which the following examples, used to react to media being posted or to reply to media:

Resources

References