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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Who Dey vs. Who Dat?

The most grammatically incorrect pissing contest I can recall seems to have no clear-cut victor. Both Cincinnati Bengals & New Orleans Saints fans, as long as they stay geographically huddled & clustered, should be able to maintain their claim as to who started the "Who Dey" or "Who Dat" cheer at their respective games. Below is the most concise, easy to understand explanation I've found that leaves bias at the door. Now I, being biased as hell, maintain that the only people sitting at at a New Orleans Aints game pre-1983 screaming "Who Dat?" would have been the clowns that used to wear grocery sacks over their heads in the stands, getting groped by their drunken buddy/daddy/bubby. Plus, Hudepohl used to sell Hu-Dey Beer in Cincinnati even before there, how cool is that? (Hightower will be dropping by for lunch from Louisiana tomorrow, BTW. I will not be leaving my plate unattended, so as not to have my Buffalo Wings molested.)

Here's the take from the December 14, 2006 New York Times:

Who Dey vs. Who Dat


Which came first, the dey or the dat?

I’m referring to the cheers:“Who dey! Who dey! Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?!”and“Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say gonna beat dem Saints?!”

In the print version of the Fifth Down yesterday, I wrote that Saints fans started to use the “who dat” phrase in the late 1970s. A reader wrote that Saints fans didn’t start saying that until 1983. When I did some additional research, I realized I was wading into a murky area — a linguistic and intercity squabble.
From reading message boards for each team, it’s clear that Bengals fans and Saints fans want to believe they came up with the idea first. (If anyone thinks they have definitive proof, feel free to send it along in the comments section below.)

It reminds me of the spat over the Seahawks’ use of the phrase “the 12th man.” Texas A&M got its knickers into a twist because it had copyrighted the term. The matter almost went to court before the two parties settled.

Many Bengals fans reject theories that a variation of the saying started in New Orleans instead of Cincinnati. Wikipedia gives a possible source for the chant:

A 1980 commercial for Red Frazier Ford of Cincinnati, which used this tagline: “Who’s going to give you a better deal than Red Frazier? Nobody!” Cincinnati fans who had seen the commercial many times may have just copied it when cheering.

This is how explains the origins of the terms:

Who Dey

Although the exact origin of the phrase is disputed, it had been made popular by 1981 in Bengals fans’ cheers for their team during their run to Super Bowl XVI. Some fans would do the chant and other fans would reply, “Nobody!” The cheer again gained national recognition in their 1988 appearance in Super Bowl XXIII. Due to the success of the Bengals team in the 2005 season, the chant is again gaining popularity. Different theories of the origin of the chant exist.

Who Dat

The chant of “Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat dem - - ” originated in minstrel shows and vaudeville acts in the late 1800s and early 1900s, then was taken up by jazz and big band folks in the 1920s and 1930s, became a familiar joke among soldiers in World War II, was used in early TV skits in the 1950s, then was adapted by Southern University and the public schools in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s and finally was adopted by Saints fans and the Saints in the late 1970’s.

So after looking into it, here’s what we think we know: The phrase was widely used by Bengals fans in 1981.The phrase was widely used by Saints fans in 1983.A variation of the phrase was used by some Louisiana high schools and colleges in the 1970s and seems to have been used by some Saints fans in the late 1970s (probably a small number, and possibly a very small number). Is it possible that it was then copied and adapted by Bengals fans? Not clear. Did the popularity of the Bengals’ chant in 1981 lead to the wider adoption of the Saints’ saying in 1983? This seems likely, but also is not clear.

I know this is probably more than you want to know about the subject, but just think: A Saints-Bengals Super Bowl is not an impossibility, especially with Cincinnati’s recent surge. You’ll be an expert on a topic that could be a time-killer for an entire week before the Super Bowl (that would still leave us with a week to go).


  1. Y'all kin have "Who dey" Ain't noboddy down dere in Neworlins gonna tawk like dat nohow. Wut de hey-ull does "Who dey" mean ennyhow? - HT

  2. Seems our Japanese buddy is back. Awesome.


Man, that chick beside me is smokin'.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

Imagine waking up and seeing this on ESPN. I look like I'm having a stroke back there. Good Lord.

3:30 AM, after the Louisville game.

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