Goo goo ga joob, coo coo ca-choo, boop-oop-a-doop

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Last week, in the comments to Mark Liberman's post on the mystifying reggae chant at the beginning of Scotty's "Draw Your Brakes," I asked:

Now that we've looked into "Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa" and this one, what's the next impenetrable pop lyric/chant we should tackle?

KCinDC promptly responded:

How about "goo goo g'joob"? Is it the same as "coo coo ca-choo"?

Ask and ye shall receive. Just in time for the rollout of the Beatles remasters and the "Beatles: Rock Band" video game, my latest Word Routes column on the Visual Thesaurus takes on "goo goo goo joob" (that's how it appears in the Magical Mystery Tour lyric sheet), "coo coo ca-choo," and, for good measure, "boop-oop-a-doop."

(I'll leave it to Mark to provide the requisite study in syncopation.)


  1. Sili said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 2:29 am

    Boo(p). I wanted to ask about boo-boop-a-doop.

    You're too good.

  2. William Young said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 2:33 am

    I was actually talking with someone recently about "goo goo goo joob", since they were familiar with it but couldn't place where it was from. I pointed out the Beatles bit, and then realized/remembered that it was also in Paul Simon's Mrs. Robinson.

    My initial guess was that Rhym'n Simon was referencing the Fab Four, but a quick little check around seems to show that both songs came out in the same year. Alas, I've yet to actually get months or days of the releases to find out which came first.

    [(bgz) The Word Routes column gives the basic chronology. "I Am the Walrus" was recorded on 5 Sep 67 and released as the B-side of "Hello Goodbye" on 24 Nov 67. An early version of "Mrs. Robinson" appeared in The Graduate in Dec 67 and on the soundtrack album in Jan 68; it was released in its complete form (with "coo coo ca-choo") as a single and on Bookends in Apr 68.]

  3. sports trivia fiend said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 2:50 am

    YouTube has just about everything on record by now. I'm really surprised to see there was nothing of Baby Esther on record anywhere…kind of sad. Funny about linking Betty Boop to the Beatles – never thought of it that way, but you do have a legitimate point.

  4. .mau. said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 3:36 am

    I read somewhere that Paul Simon once said that he wanted to quote "Goo goo g' joob", but he misheard it and so came out with "Coo coo ca-choo".
    (I cannot vouch for my memory, however)

  5. Shmuel said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 8:11 am

    I never knew Helen Kane's name, but I am amazed she is not related to Carol. Considering their voices, there must be some shared genes?

  6. language hat said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 8:58 am

    Both Lennon and Simon, I believe, were at least indirectly influenced by another pop-cultural source: the catchphrase of the 1930s cartoon bombshell Betty Boop, "boop-oop-a-doop." It's got the same metrical cadence as "goo goo goo joob" and "coo coo ca-choo,"

    Not true. The latter two are very distinct in rhythm from "boop-oop-a-doop," as you will discover if you try to replace it with either of them. The similarity is suggestive, but I think it's a stretch to claim it as an influence, unless there is evidence that Lennon was a Boop fan.

  7. Ginger Yellow said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 10:34 am

    Maybe he liked Some Like It Hot. They're not that distinct

  8. language hat said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    Just realized I shot off my mouth too quickly (as sometimes happens): while the Paul Simon phrase is rhythmically distinct, the Beatles one is essentially identical to Betty Boop's. So the Beatles were influenced by the Boop, and we know Simon swiped the phrase from them, so Bob's your uncle.

  9. Robert Coren said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    My not entirely reliable memory has the spelling in the original album's lyric sheet as "googoogajoob" (or possibly "googoogoojoob", but definitely spelled solid).

    [(bgz) That could be. A commenter on Entertainment Weekly's "Music Mix" blog says it's "goo goo ga joob" in the copyrighted lyrics. I took "goo goo goo joob" from Beatles Anthology, but that appears to be Lennon's typed lyrics rather than what showed up in the album's liner notes or elsewhere.]

  10. rpsms said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

    Like Paul Simon, I have misheard it every one of the times I have listened to "Walrus."

    Even now, I can not manage to hear a "g" sound. I chalked it up to a transcription error.

  11. rpsms said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

    Slightly off-topic:

    Similar to the Walrus pronunciation: I'd be interested in a professional's opinion on Regina Spektor's song "On the Radio"

    My daughter listens to this in the car and I all I hear when she sings is "bradio" whereas my daughter only hears "radio"

    I'm not alone in this, google: "regina spektor" "on the bradio"

  12. Bloix said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

    Spektor strongly aspirates the "r" so that comes out something like hradio or fradio. Her first language is Russian – she and her family moved from Moscow to New York when she was nine. Perhaps someone who knows something can tell us whether initial "r" is aspirated in Russian.

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