Is ‘booyakasha’ the new ‘cowabunga’ for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

© dragan85 - Fotolia.comThe ’10s have become the decade of 80s remakes, from The Karate Kid to Footloose to The A-Team. (Rumor has it there’s a Dirty Dancing remake in the works… blasphemy!) So it comes as no surprise that 80s comic book, TV series and 1990 hit movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been retooled for Nickelodeon.

The series is already being heralded a success as TMNT merchandise flies off the shelves (better get your hands on some TMNT gear now — it’s the hot item this holiday season.) There’s even a new movie in the works from Michael Bay, due out in 2014.  Turns out these ass-kicking, pizza-loving turtles still have major shell-ing power. (Yes, I went there.)

But diehard fans think the remakes are, well, totally bogus. Aside from the fact that the TV show features slick computer animation and the movie will have a new origin story (the turtles will come from another planet, rather than a puddle of radioactive ooze), there’s also a new catch phrase on the block.

Fans went ballistic when the classic ‘cowabunga’ was seemingly kicked to the curb in favor of ‘booyakasha.’ So what gives?  Well, the show’s executive producer explained it like this to Entertainment Weekly:  “There was a lot of talk about what the new ‘cowabunga’ was, or whether it should even remain ‘cowabunga’.” They hadn’t actually thought of a word to replace it yet, but the actor who voices Michelangelo started riffing — and ‘booyakasha’ just sort of stuck.

The show’s execs claim that ‘cowabunga’ could still make its way back into the turtles’ vocabulary — but should it? The word ‘cowabunga’ actually dates back to the 1950s, when it was popularized by The Howdy Doody Show. It evolved into a surfing catchphrase and rose to prominence in the late 1980s, when California surfing culture pervaded national pop culture and regularly spawned new catchphrase. ‘Booyakasha’ is decidedly a word of the 2000s with notably different roots (it’s often associated with Ali G).

As a child of the 80s, I’m not crazy about all the remakes — I’d rather see new stories being told. And why replace Patrick Swayze or Kevin Bacon when they danced their asses off so perfectly in some of the biggest hits of the 80s? But my feeling is, if you’re going to remake a movie, don’t just take the exact same script and plunk fresh faces into the leads — really remake it. Modernize it, find a new angle, set it in a different era, and yes, even play with language to translate it into something that meshes with contemporary culture. After all, we do it with Shakespeare — so why not with nunchuk-wielding reptiles?

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