What’s the dilly with “Dilly, Dilly?”

“Dilly, Dilly!”

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island for the past few months, chances are you have seen the “Dilly, Dilly” Bud Light commercials that seem to run every five minutes.  Whether you are familiar or not, you should read on.  You’ll thank me when you are watching the Super Bowl on February 4th and see one of these ads.  If you need a refresher on this cultural phenomenon, or a first-time introduction, here is the commercial.   (By the way, I love using commercial videos to teach all sorts of language concepts, however I am not condoning the use of a beer commercial in the classroom! )

Here is the original version:


And this is the newest commercial:


So you may be asking yourself, “Is she really talking about beer commercials on a speech and language blog?!”  I sure am, for a number of reasons:

1–I’m sure many of your students have seen this commercial, and you may have even heard some of them repeating this catchy phrase or wearing a t-shirt bearing the words.

2–While I do not condone or encourage the discussion of alcohol, I do encourage the discussion of word meanings, especially fun and catchy phrases like this one that become popular and are repeated frequently.  Let’s face it, after Super Bowl Sunday, “Dilly, Dilly” may become a passing memory, but for now, it’s fun, humorous and has some cultural value.

3-Inquiring minds want to know—-some of my middle and high school students have asked me what the phrase means.  I figured, why not further explore the meaning.  I’ve always investigate other word and idiom meanings to help them expand vocabulary skills, so why not add this to the list.

So here’s the dilly with this phrase:  The Oxford English Dictionary defines dilly as “an excellent example of a particular type of person or thing.” Merriam Webster notes dilly “comes from an obsolete adjective meaning ‘delightful.’”

Andy Goeler, VP of Bud Light says”The dictionary definition of the word differs from our definition slightly, but to us, it was a sort of medieval form of ‘cheers.’”  “The phrase has taken on a life and a meaning of its own, thanks to fans of the commercials.”

Additionally, the phrase “dilly dilly” appeared in a 1949 folk song by Burl Ives, “Lavender’s Blue,”  which was adapted from a  nursery rhyme titled “Lavender’s Blue” that dates back to the 17th century. The rhyme uses “dilly dilly” as part of its cadence in most of its lines.  The old British television comedy “Dad’s Army” also makes reference to the poem in an episode about preparing a wartime radio broadcast to the waiting empire.

So that’s the scoop, folks.  The English language has many passing trends, some of which wind up hanging around for quite a while, even permanently, as our language continues to be influenced by various historical and cultural events. For the time being though, this one isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps it will be the newest addition in the Oxford Dictionary?!

I will leave you with my favorite version of this commercial.  As a resident of the Northeast and within very close proximity to the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia Eagles have been a long time favorite of mine.  This is their very first visit to the Super Bowl, and it’s looong overdue!   Here is the Philadelphia version of the popular commercial.  “Dilly, Dilly. Philly, Philly!”

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One comment on “What’s the dilly with “Dilly, Dilly?”

  1. Annie Doyle on said:

    This post was a dilly!! Loved it!

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