Shakira’s Viral, Tongue-Wagging Super Bowl Moment Actually Has Cultural Meaning

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show was a hit-filled spectacle, and some fans think it was one of the finest halftime performances ever. Not all the attention the show received was due to the quality of the performance, though. At one point, Shakira looked into the camera, wagged her tongue, and made a high-pitched vocalization. The moment was quickly memed:

However, there is actually cultural meaning behind what Shakira did. The vocalization is known as a zaghrouta, a traditional Arabic celebration chant.

Arab America explains the meaning of the zaghrouta, “‘Zaghrouta’ (زغروتة) is best described in English as ‘Ululation.’ It 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. Ululation is usually used by women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and is commonly performed in weddings, parties, celebrations and sometimes in funerals to honor someone and to express strong emotions.”

Some have also noted the zaghrouta was a reference to the Carnaval de Barranquilla, which takes place where Shakira is from in Colombia.

Watch the full Super Bowl halftime show here.