Revisiting 25: Alligator Goodbyes, now in song

Back on 6/4/11, in “Alligator Goodbyes”, a t-shirt with 14 instances

of a verse form that I’ll call the Alligator Goodbye, on the model of “see you later, alligator” (at the top of the shirt):


Now, a much bigger assemblage of AGs — 27 of them — on the Language Nerds Facebook page, in b&w:

(#2) (You’re welcome to deprecate the typefaces.)

(I wish I could use “Better swish, jellyfish” with a, um, straight face.)

Characteristically, there’s no source given for #2; see my 2/10 posting “French 2sg pronouns”, with two angry rants about the Language Nerds FB page as “an irresponsible trash heap”. In this case, I was able to track the poster back to the etsy site for Little Life Designs, which also has a multi-color version:

(#3) “Goodbye Sign: Perfect for the entryway, nursery, child’s room, playroom, or classroom!”

But there the trail ends.

There are tons of versions in the AG genre; they’re especially common on parenting and teacher-supply sites.

Put it to music. Unaccountably, back in the 2011 posting, I failed to mention the 1950s rock and roll song “See You Later, Alligator” — unaccountably, because it’s one of the tracks on the Bill Haley and the Comets Rock Around the Clock album that helped carry me through my undergraduate years.

About the song, from Wikipedia:

“See You Later, Alligator” is a 1950s rock and roll song written and first recorded by American singer-songwriter Bobby Charles [Louisiana songwriter Robert Charles Guidry]. The song was a Top Ten hit for Bill Haley and His Comets in 1956 in the United States.

… The song was featured in Rock Around the Clock, a musical film Haley and the Comets began shooting in January 1956


… Bill Haley’s recording of “See You Later, Alligator” popularized a [jocular] catchphrase already in use at the time

Barry Popik’s website on 5/19/15 about the catchphrase(s):

“See you later, alligator!” is 1950s teen slang for “goodbye.”

“After a while, crocodile” also means “goodbye” and was often said in response. “See ya later alligator” and “in a white (sic) crocodile” was printed in the column “Teen Biz” by Suzanne Kramer in the Franklin (LA) Banner-Tribune on December 27, 1951.

The OED‘s first cite:

1954  Reno (Nevada) Gaz. 16 Feb. 4/7 See you later, alligator: meaning good-bye.

Then it has the Bobby Charles song in 1954. Popik has an assortment of other cites from the 1950s.

The Bobby Charles 1955 recording:


And the Bill Haley 1956 recording:


After the rock and roll years. Eventually, the AG form came to be seen as verse for children — see #3 above — and AG lines were set to all sorts of simple tunes. Three examples:

(#7) Super Simple Songs: “This simple and fun goodbye song is the perfect way to end a lesson.”

(#8) Music Therapy Tunes by Margie (and Peach): “Good bye song for kids good for school and camp and more”


(#9) King County Library System site, “Storytime goodbye song: This song would be great to use with a felt story or props.You can sing it to the tune of “Clementine” [as here] or “Happy Birthday.””

AG’s kin. Single-line rhymes like AG, but involving personal names rather than names of creatures. From my 7/25/15 posting “Name rhymes”, first about the song “Everybody Eats at My House”, rhyming (or half-rhyming) food names and personal names (call it the Everybody Eats form):

Have a banana, Hannah
Try the salami, Tommy
Get with the gravy, Davy
Everybody eats when they come to my house

And then the Fifty Ways form:

A less internally constrained form (lines ending in rhyming words, the second of which is a personal name), but with invariant wording, comes in Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”, with the refrain:

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free


2 Responses to “Revisiting 25: Alligator Goodbyes, now in song”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    The farewell to the brown cow should surely be “Ciao, ciao”, no?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: