In Reply to: Re: Cowabunga posted by RRC on January 03, 2010 at 17:48:
: : Who started the phrase cowabunga? I remember someone on tv saying it years ago... was it howdy dowdy?
: Yes, Chief Thunderthud on The Howdy Doody Show about 1954.
I thought we had discussed this before. But I couldn't find it in the archives. Here are my notes:
COWABUNGA ".Cowabunga! And Aye, caramba are well-established surfer interjections into which Bart (Simpson, the U.S. cartoon character) breathed new life." Page 226. There's a rather long section in this reference on the word: Word History: Cowabunga. "Cowabunga! carries with it a singular history. It was first used by Bill LeCornec, who played a number of roles on the 'Howdy Doody Show,' including Chief Thunderthud of the Ooragnuk (kangaroo spelled backward). Speaking in racially stereotyped broken English as Chief Thunderthud, LeCornec prefaced his sentences with 'Kawa,' not unlike the Beat use of 'like' as a prefatory filler in a sentence. He expanded on this, building words. When things went well, he pronounced 'KawaGoopa'; when he was scared he said 'KawaChicken,' and whenever he came to grief, largely because of Clarabell's practical jokes, he exclaimed, 'Kawabonga!'." Howdy Doody scholars have suggested that Cowabunga! Is "subliminal or coded profanity." But Buffalo Bob Smith "strongly resented any insinuation of profanity and respond to the charge in 'Howdy and Me" by Mr. Smith and Donna McCrohan (New York: Plume Books, 1990): '.the implications of Kawabonga were always squeaky clean.'.Kawabonga, in any event, was soon taken up by surfers, who changed the spelling of Cowabunga! It was an all-purpose cry of exultation." Page 228-229. "Flappers to Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1996).