We’ve had yells at Texas A&M since even before we were called “Aggies” (a term unofficially in use as far back as the 1910s), and before Kyle was even a field (first bleachers built in 1905).
Here’s one from 1896 — gamely tackled by current Aggie students:
That was the first A&M College yell to be officially adopted, according to Henry Dethloff’s “A Centennial History of Texas A&M University.” (Below, we’ll address the burning topic of what “Boom! Cis! Bah!” means.)
Even before that, A&M’s first yearbook, the 1895 Olio, records yells for individual clubs and classes (a snippet: “Rah! Rah! Rate! We are the Class of ’98!”)
You can browse through “yell books” from 1906 to 1917 in an article that former yell leader Fletcher Massie ’09 wrote for the (usually satirical) Aggie fan site Good Bull Hunting.
Cushing Memorial Library
These books, from A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library, show that some yells we know today took root very early on.
“Hullabaloo! Caneck! Caneck!” appears in the 1906 yell book; so does “Chick-gar-roo-gar-rem! Chick-gar-roo-gar-rem! Rough! Tough! Real! Stuff! Texas A. & M.!” Both yells were later incorporated into the War Hymn.
Some yells vanished: A 1931 yell book gives an SMU-themed companion yell to “Saw Varsity’s Horns Off” called “Pull Ponies Tail Out.”
There may have been a version for Rice, too, as the 1927 yearbook refers to “Pulling the Owl’s tail out.”
Some yells were acquired along the way. Although “Beat The Hell” was introduced as an official yell with a passback sign in 1969, the sentiment was already well known to Aggies, who had been doing the yell once after each football game in anticipation of the next opponent. In 1941, when news of the Pearl Harbor attack was announced in the campus movie theater, cadets responded with yells including “Beat the hell out of Japan!”
And many yells have changed over the years.
A 1967 Battalion article quoted a former yell leader from 1942 as saying the yell “Fifteen for Team” still contained 15 repetitions of “Rah!” in 1915, but later was shortened to nine and then just three.
The yell “Horselaugh” appears in a 1910 yell book in very nearly its modern form, though the ending is written “Ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a.” Though it was still reprinted this way into the 1990s and perhaps later, for some period of Aggie history (parts of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, at least) the sound actually produced was the raspberry or Bronx cheer.
We stopped by the Class of ’58’s monthly lunch in College Station and asked them to demonstrate:
Bryan Eagle stories from 1970 describe students “hissing”; by the 1990s the hissing sound was firmly in place, and today it’s written as “Sssssss.”
Some things, though, don’t change quite so much.
Aggies have been yelling “Gig ’em” for at least a hundred years; an A&M yearbook mentions its use during the 1916 football season, and when it was paired with a thumbs-up gesture at a yell practice in 1930, it gave rise to the first hand signal in the Southwest Conference.
Patrick Danielczyk '03
The phrase is still so current with Aggies that a recent Instagram search showed more than 250,000 posts hashtagged #gigem.
A little extra tidbit: The “Boom! Cis! Bah!” part of the 1896 A&M yell likely comes from what is called the first collegiate cheer -- the “skyrocket yell” adapted by Princeton as early as the 1850s from military usage, in which “sis-boom-bah” is the skyrocket: a hiss and explosion followed by spectators’ “ah.”
Along with the rise in popularity of college football, cheers like “sis-boom-bah,” the practice of having cheerleaders (who were all male, in the early days; A&M had yell leaders before any Texas college had cheerleaders) and bits of music were shared across the U.S.; that’s how the University of Oklahoma wound up singing “Boomer Sooner” to the tune of Yale’s “Boola Boola,” for example.
We want to hear from you! How have yells evolved since your "Old Army" days?