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What's all this about 'dat'?

February 8, 2010 |  5:54 pm

“ ‘Who dat’ rejoicing?” The Times’ front page headline asked Monday, with an article about fans’ reaction to the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl win.

Sports208 And the headline on Monday’s Sports cover, in 92-point type, reads: “DAT’S INCREDIBLE”.

So what’s up with “dat,” anyway?

Reader R. Chandler from La Puente said he was “outraged” by the headlines “couched in minstrel show dialect.” 

However, the usage is far from racist. As the front-page story by Richard Fausset says, ‘Who dat’ has become Saints’ fans rallying cry: “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” And a photo of fans watching the game from a New Orleans church includes a man in a “Who dat” T-shirt.

In December, after the team finished the regular season 13-0, Fausset wrote about the mood in New Orleans:

All across New Orleans, businesses, cars and people are adorned with the words "Who Dat?"

The Saints include the phrase on the team’s official website (“Show your ‘Who dat’ spirit!”). Even the NFL has gotten in on the action, claiming ownership of the phrase, as the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

It’s ubiquitous in New Orleans, Jacques Berry, the spokesman for Louisiana's secretary of state, told the Journal. “People start their calls on the radio saying ‘who dat,' they end their calls on the radio that way. You walk down the street and say ‘Who dat!' and people you don't even know say ‘Who dat' back.”

New Orleans’ newspaper, the Times-Picayune, looked into the origins of the phrase, which does go back to minstrelsy:

A popular "Who dat?" routine -- one character says "Who dat?" then another says "Who dat says who dat?" -- was pervasive in black stage entertainment throughout the early and middle 20th century.

However its connection with sports teams appears to have started in the 1970s and was brought to the Saints in the mid-1980s.

It’s been “Who dat” ever since. Got dat?

-- Deirdre Edgar

Twitter: @LATreadersrep