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NOT OUR DIVISION! What is it? Where Did it Come From?

Thanks to his faith in Sherlock and his “silver fox” looks, quintessential good cop Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, played by Rupert Graves, is a fan-favorite character in BBC Sherlock. Though some fans argue that he is criminally underused, Lestrade did get what has become one of the most iconic lines in the entire show: “Not our division”. This line, simple yet expressive, exploded into a popular meme that then transcended the boundaries of fandom and crossed over into the mainstream.

The mainstream? You read that right. Let’s dive into this one.

Where did Not Our Division! come from?

This line came from what is widely considered one of the best episodes of the series, Season 2, episode 3, “The Reichenbach Fall.” As part of a criminal trifecta, James Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-nemesis, breaks into the case at the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are kept. Sergeant Sally Donovan rushes to Lestrade’s office to report the crime:

SALLY: “Sir, there’s been a break-in”

LESTRADE: “Not our division.”

SALLY: “You’ll want it.”

The image of Lestrade with his feet up, casually munching a donut, was an immediate hit. First, it added a touch of levity to what turned out to be an intense episode. Second, it gently pokes fun at the stereotype of the donut-eating, do-nothing cop, but since Lestrade is a beloved character, there’s an innocence about it that fans found instantly appealing. Thanks to the way the scene is framed, we know that Moriarty is up to no good. We know that Lestrade, Sherlock, and John are about to be entangled in it. So we know that this moment of peace for Lestrade, kicked back with a snack in his office, is the calm before the storm. Plus who hasn’t been tempted at some point to pass the buck or say “that’s not my problem?” Fans were able to relate to this endearing moment, and that contributed to its success as a meme.

How did the meme take off?

Immediately after the episode aired .gifs and still shots of the Lestrade scene started making the rounds on the Internet. As with many popular memes, the text “NOT OUR DIVISION” or sometimes “NOT MY DIVISION” was frequently superimposed over the image. Before long the meme veered off into two different directions.

First, Sherlock fans started using “NOT MY DIVISION” as a response to things they didn’t like or couldn’t relate to, like you’ll find with posts like this gif by a-sherlocked-girl on tumblr, saying “That moment when someone asks for ya to help him with anything related to boyfriends/girlfriends…#not my division”.

In reverse, you can show interest or admiration for something by saying it IS your division like with this charming Valentine’s Day card saying: “You are…my division”.

The second major direction that the meme took was translating “NOT OUR DIVISION” into other languages with intentionally terrible photo manipulation of the Lestrade image to include stereotypical cultural items like a sombrero and churros with Spanish text “NO ES MI DIVISION” or a beret and baguette with French text “PAS NOTRE DIVISION.” Tumblr user fanartist-glaucopis is credited with starting this trend, but since this page is now inactive, Tumblr user shaddicted has compiled as many of the “Lestrade Worldwide” meme variations as possible and put them in one post . Which one is your favorite? Personally, w can’t help but love Italian Lestrade with his giant mustache and plate of pasta.

Is there more? Of course there’s more. And of course, because it’s tumblr, that means sex jokes. Bbcsherlockpickuplines picked up this meme and ran with it. See that compilation here. 

Is there fan art? This is the Sherlock fandom, of course there is! DeviantArt user EGLemming created a faithful representation of the scene in comic-form here . Tumblr user littletinatodd perfectly captured the “not my problem” sentiment of the meme complete with flying paperwork in this drawing .

This moment is so well-known in the fandom that some fans have even done cosplay photo shoots of it.

Is Not My Division! in fanfiction?

Fanfic writers find Lestrade’s iconic line irresistible to use in their stories. Author Dragonhaven42 fits it in perfectly in the story “BBC Sherlock Holmes vs. The Cat”:

“John!” Sherlock shouted before remembering he had left hours ago. Groaning he leaned over and snatched up his phone. He dialed Lestrade and waited impatiently until the DI picked up. “Lestrade, I need to get rid of a cat.”

“Not my division,” click.

Damn him.

In her funny Sherlock-inspired take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” called “The Twelve Days of Sherlock BBC,” author Chrysanthemum247 makes “Not our division!” the refrain for the sixth day of Christmas. 

Where else can I find this meme?

T-shirts, stickers, posters, you name it- this meme is so well-known even outside fandom that many popular sites have been selling merchandise with Lestrade’s famous catchphrase. For example, you can show your love for this meme with a fun coffee-and-donut decorated t-shirt.

You can decorate your stuff with cheerful Lestrade stickers complete with and rainbows. 

You can even decorate your place with a sleek “Not My Division” poster with a dark red Scotland Yard badge front and center.

There’s even a pillow! 

So how’d this meme turn into a mainstream catchphrase?

Even though it originated in fandom, it became a popular hashtag on forums like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. It’s succinct, expressive, and super-relatable, so before long, the saying struck a chord with the general public. It became a commonly used expression, entirely disconnected from its original Sherlock source. Today it even has its own pages on Urban Dictionary and Definithing!

There you have it – the next time all you want to do is throw your hands in the air and eat a donut instead of dealing with a problem, you know what to say.  It’s even perfect for dealing with pesky math homework, if you’re so inclined (but we still wouldn’t recommend those pickup lines…).

Want to be in the know in all your favorite fandoms? Lucky for you, it IS our division to get you caught up on all the best memes, in-jokes, and fanfics out there!

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Want more meme investigations? Check out these previous posts:

Got Milk, Sherlock?

What is OmegaVerse?

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ThinkingViolet has been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes since she first read The Hound of the Baskervilles at age 7. She loves baking, kickboxing, and trivia nights with friends. ThinkingViolet is currently writing a Labyrinth fanfiction called "A Friend in Need.

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