Monday, May 26, 2014

Allegheny, Allagaroo, CCNY and Others Too! A History of a Cheer.

Allegheny, Allagaroo, CCNY and Others Too! Gooooo Team!  

A History and Etymology of Allagaroo.

While researching the well-known college cheer, Sis-Boom-Bah, for a recent post, I ran across the less well-known cheer, “Allagaroo,” the origin of which has been up for debate.  But I may have found the source.

“Allagaroo” may be best known as part of City College of New York’s run of basketball success during the 1950s:  

Allagaroo garoo gara,
Allagaroo garoo gara,
Ee-yah ee-yah,
Sis boom bah,
Team! Team! Team!

Sports Illustrated, April 3, 2000.  

According to City College school legend, Allagaroo is either a reference to a cross between an alligator and a kangaroo or a corruption of the French phrase, “allez guerre” (on to war).  While either explanation sounds reasonable standing alone, they may merely be ex-post-facto explanations created to imbue a modicum of meaning to an otherwise nonsensical phrase.  As it turns out, the actual origin of Allagaroo may be the word, Allegheny.

In 1889, Allegheny College’s school cheer was reported to be:

Alleghe! Alleghe! ‘rah! Boom! Alleghany!

Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, With Answers, Volume VI, No. 6, June, 1889. 

In 1912, Allegheny College’s school cheer was reported to be:

Alle-ge-rue! Ge-rue! Ge-rue! Wah-who, ba-zu! Hi-ix, hi-ix! Hica-pica, doma-nica! Hong-pong, tibi-tica! Halleka, Ballakah, bah! Alleghe! Alleghe! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Walter Benjamin Palmer, The Olympian of Phi Delta Theta, 1912.

The “Alle-ge-rue, ge-rue, ge-rue” of Allegheny’s cheer is clearly derived from the school’s name, Allegheny.  The phrase is also suggestive of the region in which the school is located, the Allegheny Mountains.  At least two other colleges located in or near the Alleghenies also used variations of the phrase in or around the same period:

Allegaro-garo-garan! Hi-yip, Ti-yip! Cumberland! Cumberland! 
(Cumberland University, 1897)

Edwin Emmerson, Jr., The College Year Book and Athletic Record 1896-1897, Stone I Kimball, New York, 1897.

Alle-ga-ne-ga-noc-ga-noc! (twice). Hurrah! Hurrah! Wup! 
(Western University of Pennsylvania, 1917)

The World Almanac and Encyclopedia 1918, The Press Publishing Co., New York, 1917.

Similar phrases were also used by at least two schools far-removed from the Allegheny Mountains:

Allegaroo! Garo! Garoint! Normal! Normal! Stevens Point! 
(University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, 1901)

The Nautilus 1901, Press Association of Stevens Point Normal, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 1901.

Allagaroo, garoo, garoo; Wah, hoo, bazoo; Hicer, picer, dominicer; Sis! Boom! Bah! Hutchinson High School Rah! Rah! Rah! (Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson, Kansas, 1902)

Allegheny College’s original “Alleghe ‘rah” appears to be the origin of all of the later allagaroo variants.  The many similarities between Hutchinson High’s cheer and Allegheny’s cheer (as reported in 1912) are certainly more than coincidence.  Somebody copied someone. 

Of course, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and was part and parcel of school cheers from their earliest days.  Princeton’s “sis, boom, bah,” the mother of all school cheers, has been copied so often that it is now a generic representation of school cheers, generally.  Harvard’s original school cheer was ‘rah – nine times slowly, whereas Yale’s original school cheer was ‘rah – nine times quickly – not much imagination there (but of course, they are fine schools, I hear). 

Although the gap in the historical record leaves open the question of whether Hutchinson High’s cheer came before or after the 1912 version of Allegheny College’s cheer, Stevens Point’s use of “Allegaroo, garo, garoint” in 1901 (one year before Hutchinson High first used Allagaroo) suggests that Allegheny may well have used Alle-ge-rue, ge-rue, ge-rue long before 1912.

In any case, Allagaroo, in one form or another, pre-dates City College of New York’s use of the phrase in the 1950s by many years.  The early use of “Alleghe ‘rah,” “Alle-ge-rue,” “Allegaro” and “Alle-ge-noc” by Allegheny College and two other colleges located in the Allegheny Mountains suggests that Allegaroo was derived from the word Allegheny. 

Later users most likely heard or read of the phrase, and adapted it to their own uses.  Lists of college cheers were collected and published starting as early as 1887.  The World Almanac and Encyclopedia published exhaustive lists of college cheers every few years starting in the early 1890s.  Students interested in developing their own school cheer would have had access to those resources in looking for suitable cheer formats.  Nonsensical, rhythmic gibberish phrases were in no short supply in college cheers of the early 1900s:

Boom-a-racket, cheese-a-racket, Sis boom ah! (Stetson)
Hoo-gah-hah, Hoo-gah, hah, K.U., K.U., Rah, Rah, Rah! (Kentucky Univeristy)
Boom-a-lacka, boom-a-lacka, bow, wow, wow! (Ouachita)
Hoo, Rale, Rale, Roo! Wa hoo, Wa hoo! Hullaballo, hullaballo! (Buchtel)

The World Almanac and Encyclopedia 1908, The Press Publishing Co., New York, 1907.

If Allagaroo is derived from Allegheny, it seems likely that later users probably had no idea; and probably did not care.  Maybe the head-cheerleader liked the sound of Allagaroo better than Boom-a-racket, Hoo-gah-hah, Boom-a-lacka, Hoo-Rale, or any of the hundreds of other cheer-words out there.  Perhaps a teacher at the school had attended Allegheny or Cumberland and introduced the cheer at a new school out of a sense of nostalgia. 

Or, perhaps the word was interesting because it sounded like a cross between an alligator and a kangaroo, or was suggestive of the French phrase for ‘off to war.’ 

Who knows? 

You be the judge.

UPDATE - November 3, 2017:

I have uncovered a few more apparent antecedants of "Allagaroo" from nonsense "counting-out" rhymes similar to "eeny, meeny, miney, mo." 

In 1888, the chemist Henry Carrington Bolton published an expansive monograph of children's "counting-out" rhymes.  Three of them include something like "Allagaroo," suggesting that the cheer could have been based, at least in part, on earlier, familiar playground rhymes, even if the use of "Allagaroo," and the like, at schools in or around the Alleghany Mountains may have been an intentional nod to the region.

Interestingly, the counting-out rhyme with elements most similar to "Allagaroo" was reported from the Alleghany Mountain State of West Virginia:

Higgamy, diggamy, ally-gue-ro;
Dick slew ally-go-slum.
Humkum, punkum, Peter run,
One, two, thre, O-U-T.  (West Virginia)

Two other rhymes recorded in Bolton's book also included similar elements; the first from Massachusetts and Baltimore, the second from San Francisco:

Ikkamy, dukkamy, alligar mole,
Dick slew alligar slum,
Hukka, pukka, Peter's gum,
Francis. (Massachusetts; Baltimore, 1848-1858).

Ickama, dickama, aliga, mo,
Dixue, aliga, sum,
Hulka, pulka, Peter's gun,
Francis.   (San Francisco).

Henry Carrington Bolton, The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children; Their Antiquity, Origin, and Wide Distribution, a Study in Folklore, New York, Appleton, 1888, page 109.

1 comment:

  1. One of the more famous uses of this cheer must be Walt Kelly's version of "Deck the Halls," which he often put in his Christmastime "Pogo" newspaper strips. The first verse is:

    Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
    Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
    Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
    Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!