A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 23, 2005
Sis-boom-bah (skyrocket cheer)
"Sis-boom-bah" is the sound of a skyrocket and quickly became a football cheer at Princeton University.

Did it begin with New York's Seventh Regiment?

The following is a post by Ben Zimmer to the American Dialect Society list.



Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 16:12:07 -0500
Reply-To: American Dialect Society <[log in to unmask]>
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From: Benjamin Zimmer <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: skyrocket cheer (1860)
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There's some discussion on alt.usage.english about "sis-boom-bah". OED says it
represents "the sound of a skyrocket: a hissing flight (sis), an explosion
(boom), and an exclamation of delight from the spectators (bah, ah)."

Under "skyrocket", OED has:

-----
2. transf. An enthusiastic cheer, raised esp. by college students; =
SIS-BOOM-BAH. U.S. slang.
1867 Ball Players' Chron. (N.Y.) 25 July 2/2 After cheers had been interchanged,
and the Nationals had let off a 'sky rocket'--namely a sort of finish to three
cheers, with a 'hiss--boom--ah!'--an adjournment was had to the clubhouse.
-----

The original "skyrocket cheer" was apparently associated with New York's Seventh
Regiment. _Vanity Fair_ published a verse in 1860 dedicated to the Seventh
Regiment called "The Sky-Rocket Cheer". Here is the refrain:

"With his ch-h-h! boom! ah;
Fol-de-rol de riddle-diddle, ch-h-h! boom!! ah!!!"
_Vanity Fair_, Mar. 10, 1860, p. 164/1
[Making of America: ]

Barry Popik has found references to "sis-boom-bah" in The Princetonian going
back to 1881, as well as a reference to the use of the skyrocket cheer at the
first football game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869:

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0107D&L=ADS-L&P=2764

Donna Richoux found this page, which provides the missing link between the
Seventh Regiment and Princeton:

http://etcweb1.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/cheers.html

Cheers became a part of the Princeton student's way
of life sometime in the late 1850s or early 1860s.
The first cheer, ``Hooray, hooray, hooray! Tiger
siss-boom-ah, Princeton!'' was adapted from the
``skyrocket'' cheer of the Seventh Regiment of New
York City. Princetonians of the early 1860s
remembered fifty years later hearing the Seventh
Regiment give this cheer from their railroad coaches
at the Princeton depot on their way to Washington, a
few days after the outbreak of the Civil War. But a
member of the Class of 1860 was pretty sure that he
had heard a classmate give the rocket cheer in
Professor Schenck's chemistry class in the spring of
their senior year.

More here: .


--Ben Zimmer
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 23, 2005 • Permalink