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This is the etymology of cowabunga.


Cowabunga has its origins in the nonsense word "kawabonga", invented by Edward Kean, writer of The Howdy Doody Show, a children's TV show that ran in the USA from 1947 until 1956.[1] Chief Thunderthud, a character on the show, started every sentence with the nonsense word "kawabonga" or with the syllable "kawa"[2] followed by ordinary English words. Other Indian characters of a different tribe, such as Chief Featherman or Princess Summerfall Winterspring, used "kawagoopa" similarly, as a greeting or to voice frustration or surprise.[3] The comic character Chief Thunderchicken exclaimed "Kawa Chicken!". Chief Thunderthud was also occasionally heard to exclaim "Kowaraschi" to express extreme frustration, perhaps in reference to major league baseball player Vic Raschi, whose daughter occasionally appeared in the Peanut Gallery (studio audience).

During the 1950s and 1960s surfers adopted "kawabonga!" as a declaration of enthusiasm, changing the pronunciation slightly to "cowabunga!".[3] "Kupaianaha" is the Hawaiian word for surprising or wonderful[4] and it may have influenced surfers who had grown up with Howdy Doody.

"Cowabunga" was reintroduced to the entertainment world via a 1965 Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy uses the word whilst surfing,[3] and surfer movies of the time. It has since been used by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles[3] and as a tagline for the 2002 film Lilo & Stitch.[3] The Cookie Monster uses "Kowabunga" to illustrate the letter K on Sesame Street.

The word is used by Bart Simpson[3] while skateboarding. While the show's creators subsequently believed "Cowabunga" was only used in the show after it was used as a slogan on the T-shirts[5], Bart did actually use the term in the Tracy Ullman Shorts[6] and in the first season episode, "The Telltale Head".


  1. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (24 August 2010) Edward Kean, Chief Writer of ‘Howdy Doody,’ Dies at 85[1], The New York Times
  2. ^ the Mavens of (2002) The mavens' word of the day collecton[2], Random House Reference, →ISBN, page 58
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Warshaw, Matt (2005) The Encyclopedia of Surfing[3], Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, →ISBN, page 140
  4. ^ Wight, Kahikāhealani (2005) Illustrated Hawaiian dictionary[4], Bess Press, →ISBN, page 107
  5. ^ Brooks, James L.; Groening, Matt; Jean, Al; Reiss, Mike; Silverman, David. (2002). Commentary for "Bart Gets an F", in The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ Raymond Chen (1992-03-17), “MG21 Skateboarding, Quotes and Scene Summary”, in (Please provide the title of the work)[5], retrieved 2011-05-02