Shakira's Tongue Provides a Cultural Lesson

People missed the significance of her 'tongue thing' during halftime show
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2020 11:40 AM CST
Updated Feb 8, 2020 1:00 PM CST

(Newser) – At one point during her Super Bowl halftime performance, Shakira looked straight into a TV camera and got the world talking about her tongue. Watch it here. The musical moment quickly became, in the words of CNN, the meme of the night. But many of those initial memes didn't seem to understand what Shakira was doing. Coverage:

  • The jokes: Many compared the warbling noise she made to that of SpongeBob SquarePants, as seen here. Mashable rounds up other common reactions on Twitter, including a comparison to turkeys (here).
  • The name: Shakira's move quickly became referred to as the "tongue thing"—but generally by people who weren't clued in to its cultural significance, note the Washington Post and ETOnline. The singer is of Lebanese-Colombian heritage, and that "tongue thing" is more formally known as a zaghrouta, which the Post describes as a "traditional Arabic expression of joy and celebration." A post at Arab America explains the "ululation" is "a form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing trills of joy. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue."

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