Cowabunga. Once popular words that no one uses anymore

Language is a funny old thing. We take it for granted most of the time, but it’s incredible to think that countless people have come to almost the same understanding of what some randomly ordered letters refer to. It’s even stranger when you start looking at things like slang words, or words that were once on the tip of every tongue that no one even remembers anymore. Some of these words need to be brought back. Others need to be forgotten…


It hasn’t been long since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bart Simpson made saying «Cowabunga!» popular. No one says it anymore — at least, not if you want to avoid getting beat up in the parking lot after school or work — and we don’t have to tell you how fast this one faded from popularity.

What is strange is that this exclamation of happy solidarity is way older than you think. It wasn’t invented by or for the Turtles at all, and it wasn’t even the happy, goofy exclamation you know it as. Originally, it was one of a few nonsense words created for the Native American character Chief Thunderthud, a regular on the 1950s Howdy Doody Show. He used it to show when he was mad or annoyed with something, pretty much the opposite of what it turned into. According to word researcher Paul McFedries (via BuzzFeed), cowabunga survived first because it was picked up by TV’s Gidget, then made it into the surf culture of the 1960s. They turned it into the happy greeting Michelangelo used in the 1980s, which Bart Simpson adopted in the 1990s. And then, it was finally and thankfully allowed to die.

by Debra Kelly

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