Everywhere I go these days, I keep hearing teens repeating the same, peculiar phrase. Whether I’m hanging out at the mall, the swing-set, or a high school, it seems that all the kids have embraced this strange colloquialism:

“Ooga booga, Chattanooga.”

Everywhere you find young people, you’ll find this hot, new expression, which is why we want to know: What on earth does it even mean?

Frankly, reader, your guess is as good as mine. Try and try though I might, I’m still struggling to pin it down. Is it an insult or are they words of praise? Search me!

For instance, I was at my son’s little league game recently and one of his teammates, Jeremy, launched the ball deep into the outfield in what turned out to be a three-run homer. Let me tell you, just as soon as the bat connected with the ball and sent it flying, the rest of his team leapt to their feet and began screaming: “Ooga booga, Chattanooga! Ooga booga, Chattanooga!” They ran out and embraced Jeremy as he crossed home, bouncing with excitement, all the while repeating these same three words. “Okay,” I thought, “this is clearly some new way to affirm membership in the youth culture. In my day, it was ‘Cowabunga!’ and ‘Don’t have a cow, man!’ Now, it’s ‘Ooga booga, etc.’ Plus ça change!” Case closed, right?

Teenagers stand beneath my windows at night, baying at me with rabid eyes: “Ooga booga, Chattanooga!”

Wrong. Two innings later, I see Jeremy on the bench, the home run hero himself, whispering something to the boy next to him. Well, I don’t know what he said, but this other boy’s face contorted in disgust and, his eyes cast in a gaze of persecutory judgment, spat out a low and menacing “Ooga booga, Chattanooga!” He quickly turned and whispered something to a few of his teammates and they all surrounded Jeremy, shoving him and shoving him and chanting all the while:

“Ooga booga, Chattanooga! Ooga booga, Chattanooga!”

Not only did Jeremy run from the game and never come back: two days later, there was a For Sale sign on his family’s house—they’d fled town! And still more alarming, two weeks later the team’s coach was found murdered in the woods, bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. The team was disbanded, but the police declined to pursue the charges, refusing to this day to answer questions about the case.

I’ve seen teens in groups, dead-eyed and lumbering like zombies without appetite. They stagger through the streets, listlessly chanting “Ooga booga, Chattanooga!” On children’s television, they no longer say anything other than these three incantatory words. At first, it was one or two shows and no one really noticed other than to muse on the idiosyncrasy of teenagers, but gradually all dialogue was replaced with this inscrutable phrase. And what’s more, every show is now credited as having been “Written by Ooga.” What evil does this all portend?

Teenagers stand beneath my windows at night, baying at me with rabid eyes: “Ooga booga, Chattanooga!” They pummel the side of my neighbours house with stones, and march through the streets of our small, suburban town, till they assemble in the town square and fall shaking at the base of what was once a Winston Churchill statue but which they have now chiseled the face off of and surrounded with thousands upon thousands of dead rats.

I write this missive in the hopes that some brave group of readers will organize and liberate this place: what once was home is a living hell in which we all pray simply that our deaths be painless.

As I write this, I hear it getting closer. The phrase. Closer and closer, and intoned in time with their footsteps. I hear the march of jackbooted, adolescent feet. And I hear the words:

“Ooga booga, Chattanooga! Ooga booga, Chattanooga!”

What does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! Go and ask the Devil himself.

This article appears on
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Aloysius Spooky

Aloysius Spooky

Aloysius Spooky discovered SpookyMag while on safari in the Antarctic. His interests include sinister teas (Beelzebub’s Nectar, e.g.).