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The ‘let that sink in’ meme: From Tumblr to Elon Musk

Leave it to Elon Musk to ruin a perfectly good meme.


Phil West


Posted on Nov 30, 2023

Some words can be both nouns and verbs and not really have anything to do with each other. Sink is one of those words, which makes the “let that sink in” meme possible. Whether that makes for a good pun is up to you, but at least one billionaire in charge of a major social media platform thinks it’s pretty funny.

But even before Elon Musk heralded his takeover of Twitter with an interpretation of the “let that sink in” meme, it was already an online thing. Some might argue it was something online that he made worse. Some might argue that’s a metaphor for Twitter, which Musk renamed X.

But before Musk, there was a Tumblr user named dutchster, back in 2014. 2014, wow, let that … never mind, we’ll just explain.

How did the ‘let that sink in’ meme start?

According to Know Your Meme, on March 24, 2014, Tumblr user dutchster posted a picture of a sink “standing” outside an open door. The caption quoted another Tumblr user who observed, “Can we just take a second to realize that there are 14-year-olds who weren’t born in the ’90s. Just f*cking let that sink in.”

Dutchster added, reacting to the sink that wanted to be let in, “What the f*ck does he want now?”

The meme worked because it riffed on an observation meant to be poignant, but made a dig at it by adding a layer or two of absurdity to it.

In 2020, Redditors over at the r/okbuddyretard subreddit, declaring itself “a satirical meme subreddit where we pretend to be 8 year olds who JUST gained internet access and made clueless memes in the early 2010s!,” decided that the “let that sink in” meme was perfect fodder for pretending to be a preteen internet noob.

And that’s where Elon Musk comes in.

How Elon Musk appropriated the ‘let that sink in’ meme

Fast forward to Oct. 26, 2022. Musk’s on-again, off-again deal to acquire Twitter appears to be on, leading him to tell the world on the platform he’s about to acquire. He does so with a video of him carrying a sink into the lobby of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, with a caption reading, “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”

Reviews were mixed.

An Inc. writer opined, “By design or by instinct, that’s what I think Musk did powerfully with his entrance at Twitter HQ. It might be as anti-serious as Musk’s landing on a per-share bid that ends in ‘420’ to buy the company, but it sets a tone.”

The Guardian, in a retrospective on the Musk takeover, observed, “The tech bro ‘joke’ was that tech bro ‘jokes’ and much else besides were now allowed on ‘liberated’ Twitter.” They saw the tweet as a step toward “reshap[ing] his platform in his own erratic image. The traditional wisdom of Twitter was: ‘Each day on Twitter there is one main character. The goal is never to be it.’ Musk has inverted that message.”

Meanwhile, unamused SFist writer Joe Kukura declared, “Unfunny prankster Elon Musk is in town, making a show of symbolic moves that indicate that he really is going to acquire (and probably ruin) Twitter in the next few days.” Kukura labeled the tweet a “groan-inducing dad joke,” but also warned of “the nonstop childish lunacy that comes with working under Elon Musk.”

On the r/memes subreddit, Redditors discussed that new development. One recalled, “I’d forgotten that the original meme had ‘what the fuck does it want now’ under the dumb pun, which is just so perfect for Musky.”

Let that sink in.

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*First Published: Nov 30, 2023, 9:55 am CST