Strange question: I don't know if onomatopoeia are said to have a proper etymology as such, but I was wondering if anyone knows the approximate first usage of the babytalk phrase goo goo ga ga?

  • 2
    Goo-goo (without ga-ga) as a representation of baby talk is at least as early as 1863 in Harper's magazine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The same dictionary defines ga-ga as a senile person. I don't know when the two sounds were first used together. – Arm the good guys in America Oct 7 '17 at 2:23

The onomatopoeic goo-goo-ga-ga appears to be the combination of two imitative expression of babbling talking. Goo-goo has an older origin, from the mid 19th century while ga-ga, which may derive from French, is from the early 20th century:

Goo goo:

  • Infantile; cooing : talking goo-goo talk to her, like you would to a baby (1863+)

(The Dictionary of American Slang)

Wiktionary suggests an alternative origin:

  • Possibly from the Tagalog gugus, "tutelary spirit." Adapted as an ethnic slur by American troops during the Filipino-American War

Ga-ga: adj.

  • "crazy, silly," 1920, probably from French gaga "senile, foolish," probably imitative of meaningless babbling.

(Collins Dictionary)

  • 1
    I wonder if goo-goo is a universal thing. Do Chinese parents say goo-goo to their babies as well, for example? – iMerchant Oct 7 '17 at 8:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.