Monday, March 26, 2012

Great Googamooga, Indeed!

The New York Times recently ran the following correction:
“A report last Wednesday in the Off the Menu column rendered incorrectly the name of a food and music festival planned for Prospect Park, Brooklyn, in May. It is The Great GoogaMooga, not The Great Googa Mooga.”

Thank goodness The Times had the decency and the courage to admit its error and set everything right.  It is a newspaper of record, after all.  As I’m sure all educated people must be aware, “Googamooga” is one word, not two, although the festival planners’ idiosyncratic capitalization of the “M” must have thrown The Times copyeditors (if any) a curve.

For a more complete explanation of “Googamooga,” I am indebted to Howard Levy and his website  According to him, “Googamooga" is probably derived from African-American musicians’ jive talk. The term was in use around 1954 by rock 'n' roll D.J. Douglas "Jocko" Henderson. It later appeared in the lyric of the Cadets' recording of "Stranded in the Jungle," by Ernestine Smith and James Johnson, as follows:

            When I woke up and my head started to clear,
            I had a strange feeling I was with cooking gear,
            I smelled something cookin’ and I looked to see
            That's when I found out they was a-cookin’ me!
        Great Googamooga, let me outta here!

When combined with the word "great"—as in "great googamooga!"—it is an exclamation of either shock and dismay or of extreme appreciation, similar to "wow!" or "goodness gracious!” according to David Fairweather, a jazz musician.

An article online by a syndicated blues D.J. from Boulder, Colorado, known only as "The Red Rooster," suggests that the term originated with a Philadelphia-Baltimore area D.J., Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert, Jr.  Red Rooster also cites “Googamooga” in a 1953 recording by the Magic Tones and later on the Temptations' 1970 hit, "Ball of Confusion."

Well, I’m certainly glad to have that cleared up, and I’m sure The Times will be as well.

In case you plan to go, The Great GoogaMooga Festival will take place in Brooklyn May 19 and 20.  Its website defines the phrase thus:
n. an amusement park of food & drink; adj. something wonderfully great; excl. "oh my goodness!" or "how bout that!"

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou viewed the brouhaha with a jaundiced eye (In fact, he is jaundiced all over) and was uncharacteristically terse: 

            I really do not give a damn
            About the Googamooga,
            Instead, I’ll take a kilogram           
            Of Caspian Beluga.

1 comment:

  1. I just noticed this (albeit almost three years after the fact)! Thanks for the recognition.