The Origin Story Of The Cincinnati Bengals ‘Who Dey’ Chant

Written By Brian Cross on September 1, 2023
Who Dey origin of Cincinnati Bengals chant, from

Cincinnati is weird. It’s a place where pigs fly and chili is served atop spaghetti and the airport is in another state. It’s the city that spawned a future US president who would gain notoriety for getting stuck in a bathtub.

And it’s a place where the phrase “Who Dey” is an acceptable greeting.

Of course, we’re referring to the rally cry that Bengals fans scream in the stands on game day, or any day for that matter. Who Dey Nation is gearing up for another promising Bengals season (and the first where they can actually bet on the Bengals), and the city and all of NFL fandom will soon be bombarded with Who Dey chants — in the real world and in Facebook comments.

But have we ever stopped to consider where the odd phrase comes from and what it means?

Can I get a Who Dey?

Of course, many people have wondered and have dug into Bengals history to find answers. While we still don’t have a definitive answer, we buy into what we think is the most likely origin story, which involves a local beer company.

Former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson led the team to its first Super Bowl in the 1981 season. And that was when Who Dey first appeared. Anderson recently told Sporting News that he started seeing the Who Dey chant and banners during the two playoff games at Riverfront Stadium that season.

But who started it? As the story goes, local Cincinnati beer company Hudepohl-Schoenling might have inadvertently planted the seed that grew into the Bengals’ signature rally cry and chant that persists to this day.

Hudepohl sold a beer called Hudy Delight, aka “Hudy”, at Riverfront Stadium via sales people that would walk up and down the stairs between sections hollering “Hudy!”

Apparently, extending the word “Hudy” to get better carry on your holler makes it sound more like “Hu-dey.”

You can imagine a spectator down the row yelling back their order: “Can I get a who dey!”

The phrase became so popular that Hudepohl began making cans sporting a Hu-Dey design that very season. It’s possible that the company’s relationship to the phrase is what motivated them to put it on the can, but it’s also possible they were just jumping on the bandwagon.

The full Who Dey chant echoes earlier cheers

For the uninitiated, the full chant goes something like: “Who Dey, Who Dey, Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals? Nooooobody!”

There have been other teams in history that used similar chants, without the response of “nobody” at the end.

Alcorn State basketball is sometimes credited for coming up with “Who Dey,” but its chant used a more commonly seen phrase, “Who Dat” (“Who Dat talkin’ bout beating them Braves”).

You might know that the New Orleans Saints have used “Who Dat” for about as long as the Bengals have used Who Dey. But they weren’t the first to use it. Another Louisiana team, the Patterson High Lumberjacks, used their chant before the Saints or LSU did. The Patterson High Lumberjacks chant went, “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat said they gon’ beat ‘dem ‘Jacks?”

The full Bengals’ chant is clearly a take on a pre-existing format, but “Who Dey” and the Saints’ “Who Dat” seem to have originated independently of each other. The additional ending of the Bengals’ chant is a local twist. The sustained “noooobody” is said to have been influenced by a TV commercial from the time.

A local car dealership, that might have been out of business by the time the chant became popular, had a memorable quip that stuck in Cincinnatians’ heads: “Who’s going to give you a better deal than Red Frazier? Nobody!”

And just like that, Who Dey became an inextricable part of Bengals football and Cincinnati’s identity.

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Brian Cross

Brian Cross contributes sports betting, casino and lottery coverage to PlayOhio and PlayPennsylvania. Brian studied Professional Writing and Journalism at the University of Cincinnati and has been a contributing writer at Cincinnati’s alt-weekly for over 10 years.

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