A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

What's the origin of the term "go-go dancer"?

September 15, 1989

Dear Cecil:

I recently changed professions, and though I refer to myself as a "dancer" or "showgirl," many people use the term "go-go dancer." No one seems to know how, why, or where "go-go" originated. What's the story?

Cecil replies:

Glad to see you're reading the Straight Dope, Phoenix; in your line of work it probably helps to keep your mind on the higher things. "Go-go" derives from the French a go go, in abundance, galore, a term that dates back to 1440 and may have derived from an older word agogue, merriment.

It found its way into our language by a route that's circuitous even for English. According to John Ciardi's Good Words to You, Compton MacKenzie published a novel in 1947 entitled Whisky Galore, about a freighter with 10,000 cases of whisky that is wrecked near a booze-starved island during World War II. The book was made into a movie of the same name in England (it was called Tight Little Island in its U.S. release) that when dubbed for the French became Whiskey a gogo, whiskey galore.

The movie inspired someone to open a bar in Paris (or was it Cannes? I can never remember these things) called "Whiskey a gogo," which became one of the first discotheques. Later the idea and the name were both imported to New York. One day the manager of the New York Whiskey a Go-Go took it upon himself to hire scantily clad girls to demonstrate new dances, and the go-go dancer was born.

I imagine the term stuck in part because it seemed to mean something in English. Cecil recalls the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox of 1959, known as the "go-go" White Sox because of their basepath speed, and I assume you're shaking it with equal vigor down there in Indianapolis.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Additions:

A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams
A Straight Dope Classic by Cecil Adams

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope! Your direct line to thou- sands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope? Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC.