Scat “boop oop a doop” and variations (Esther Lee Jones, Helen Kane, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe); hippie “coo coo ca choo”; Beatles “goo goo ga joob”

A few years ago I was working regularly with a director who filled any conversation pause with a descending musical vocalization “doo de-doo de-doo.”

While the similar “dum de-dum de-dum” means “I’m just sitting here minding my own business,” the brighter, more cheerful “doo de-doo de-do” was a cross between a satisfied sigh and a scat, and seemed to convey motion, or anticipation. It was so bright that maybe I should render it “doot te-doot te-doot.”  

Not “attention!” like the CSI “dun-dun” gavel sound, or impatience, like the “writing down your Final Jeopardy response” theme song. 

I remember looking into “doo de do de doo” and concluding that it was probably a reference to the ad-libbed tinkly piano music that would be performed during a set change. (The person who used it regularly was an opera singer.)

I would have sworn I posted something about “doo de do de doo,” but if I did, I can’t find it.

So instead, here are some links I put together on the whitewashing of “boop oop a doop,” inspired by an article on Vocabulary.com.

  • Esther Lee “Baby Esther” Jones was a Black child performer in the 1920s and 30s, who sang and scatted in a baby voice. Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop were echoing her act, which also influenced the Beatles and Finding Nemo.

    coo coo ca-choo” — surfer turtle (Finding Nemo, 2003)
  • my coo ca choo” — Alvin Stardust (1974)
  • coo coo ca-choo” — lyricist Paul Simon (“Mrs Robinson,” film The Graduate 1967, expanded version in an album 1968)
  • goo goo ga-joob” — The Beatles (I Am the Walrus, 1967)
  • boop oop a doop” — Marilyn Monroe (I Wanna Be Loved By You, in movie Some Like It Hot, 1959)
  • boop oop a doop” — Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, cartoon character spoofing Helen Kane, 30s)
  • boop oop a doop” — Helen Kane (I Wanna Be Loved By You, in musical Good Boy, 1928; sued Fleisher over using “her” catchphrase for the Betty Boop character)
  • Many similar scat phrases — Esther Lee “Baby Esther” Jones (Black child performer, sang in a baby voice in late 1920s and early 30s; cited as evidence in the above lawsuit that Helen Kane did not originate the “boop oop a doop” catchphrase.)