Shakira’s Tongue Won the Super Bowl — but Here's the Cultural Meaning Behind the Meme

News Entertainment
by Eben Diskin Feb 3, 2020

In case you missed it and you’re wondering who won the Super Bowl last night, spoiler alert — it was Shakira. Not just because her hips which — much like George Washington — simply can’t lie, but because she unknowingly created the most viral meme yet of 2020. During her co-headlining performance with J-Lo, she leaned in close to the camera, and uttered a sound that is really better seen (and heard) than described.


Twitter, of course, had a field day with the moment.




But there’s actually a pretty special cultural meaning behind the sound. While Shakira is most famous for her Colombian heritage, she also has Lebanese ancestry, and the sound is a part of Arab culture called the zaghrouta. According to Arab America, the zaghrouta 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.”

It’s commonly used by women all across the Middle East and North Africa to express strong emotions at weddings, parties, and celebrations.

Considering the Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most prestigious gigs in entertainment, it makes sense that Shakira would want to take some time to celebrate.

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