Why Does Rebecca Say “I am Shamu”

In Season 1, Episode 1 of This Is Us, Rebecca is singing a birthday song to Jack and calls herself Shamu. 


REBECCA: [Singing] Happy 36th birthday to you, Happy 36th birthday to you, I have triplets inside of me, I am Shamu.


Shamu Was a Famous Whale

Shamu (pronounce it like you would say “shamoo” or “shamew”) was a famous orca whale at SeaWorld San Diego in the 1960’s.  And, to anyone alive in the decades following the 1960’s Shamu was a household name – everybody knew who Shamu the killer whale was. 

Rebecca, who is in the final weeks of her pregnancy, is saying that she is so fat that looks like a whale.


I am Shamu  =  I am a whale  =  I am fat


Usage and Grammar Points

  • You can freely conjugate this idiom, changing tense, plurality, and subject. 
    e.g. “Wow, look at this old photo. I looked like Shamu in that bathing suit. Why didn’t anyone say anything to me?
    e.g. “There are two Shamus sitting by the pool side, getting some sun.”

  • It’s an insult
  • It’s only used for women. If a man is fat, it wouldn’t make much sense to call him Shamu


More About Shamu the Whale

Originally considered a great success for the SeaWorld brand, the orca whale (or “killer whale”) was made famous in the way that SeaWorld intended (as a fascinating, lovable icon). However, the name also later became connected to several SeaWorld scandals involving allegations of animal abuse. If you search YouTube for television commercials, you can see that the brand was strong even as late as the 1990’s, which makes this reference very easy for most North Americans to understand. Everybody knows this name, and everybody knows what it means.


Examples of SeaWorld Publicity


Original vintage poster of SeaWorld, featuring Shamu
Sea World's Baby Shamu Celebration

Learn More

For more information, please refer to the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamu_(SeaWorld_show)


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