If you’re a football fan, you might think the phrase “Who Dat?” originated with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and their chant, “Who Dat?, Who Dat? Who Dat dey say gonna beat dem Saints?”
Those football fans may be partially right. That two-word question probably did originate in New Orleans, not with the Saints but over a century ago, and was popular with minstrel shows, vaudeville acts, jazz and big bands throughout the Big Band era, and U. S. soldiers during World War II.
A common minstrel show tag line was “Who dat?” answered by “Who dat say who dat?”
The Marx Brothers had a “Who Dat?” routine in their 1930s film, “A Day at the Races,” and in the cartoon musical, “Spring Wedding,” caricatures of Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ethel Waters and the Mills Brothers portrayed frogs in a swamp performing minstrel show jokes and jazz tunes while repeatedly asking “Who Dat?”
“Who Dat?” lyrics from 1937:
“Who dat up there, who dat down there…Who dat up there sayin’ who dat down there…When I see you up there, well who dat down there…Who dat inside, who dat outside…Who dat inside singin’, who dat outside…Who dat up there, who dat down there…Who dat up there singin’, who dat down there…Who dat?
“Who Dat?” made it to Bourbon Street, but probably not for the first time, after the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game in the Superdome in 2010. “Who Dat,? Who Dat,? Who Dat in the Super Bowl?” they chanted. The Saints defeated the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 to more “Who Dat?” chanting.
“Who Dat?” became popular as a chant for football fans cheering on their favorite teams. It may have started at Southern University or at high schools in New Orleans or in Patterson, La. In the late 70s, fans at Alcorn State University and Louisiana State University were using the cheer.
In the 1980s, the cheer became so popular among fans that the Saints organization officially adopted it and Saints players recorded a version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” that incorporated the chant, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”
There have been at least 10 recorded versions of “Who Dat?’ and many hip hop renditions including one in 2012 in which New Orleans’ G. Easy raps “livin’ in New Orleans where dem people holler ‘Who Dat.?’” In recent years the phrase “Who Dat Nation” has become a popular term for the entire community of Saints fans.
Enough of Dat.
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I was told during a phone call by someone who had read about our recent trip to New Orleans, “You ate an awful lot.” My response to that observation is “Yes, we do eat a lot, that’s one of the things we plan to do when we go there.” We think it would be silly not to; there are so many good things to choose from. We also walk a lot.
By the way, I should also add to our food list: several cups of coffee au lait, and another New Orleans special brew, coffee with chicory, which is how coffee comes in New Orleans, and a couple of Abita, locally brewed beers.
(Note: From the dictionary: Chicory is a perennial plant; its root is used roasted and ground as a substitute or additive for coffee.)
Life style is a bit different in New Orleans. One thing you’ll notice if you haven’t already tucked yourself into bed, is that some drinking establishments are open 24 hours a day and drinking (out of plastic cups) is allowed on city streets.
The city of New Orleans is not required to close its bars at any particular time.
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