An esteemed cultural historian from a local university has traced the death of the dab to the moment when Michael Slater performed the act at the SCG in early 2017 while on national television. The historian, Roger Salisbury, believes that the forced and contrived nature of Slater’s dab was enough to convince dedicated dabbers that it was no longer cool and that the form of celebration should be slowly phased out.
The dab, which you can view here, had its origins in music before entering the realm of professional football in the United States where it is first believed to have been used as a form of celebration in September 2015. Following that initial dab, athletes around the world caught on, none more so than quarterback Cam Newton whom some describe as the official ambassador of the dab.
As is many things with Australian sporting culture, we’re a little bit slow on the uptake, so the first dab by an Australian cricketer in an international match was during a Test Match at the SCG in January 2017 when, upon reaching his half century, batsman Usman Khawaja raised his bat in the traditional fashion and then performed a quick, and awkwardly self-conscious, dab. As is the custom in Australian sports broadcasting, the fleetingly humorous moment was then replayed ad nauseum, and then Slater felt compelled to re-enact the moment, either at the urging of his producers or just to make Ian Chappell even grumpier than he already is.
Looking back at the moment, Salisbury believes that Slater’s attempt, in addition to its frequent rehashing on social media and television news, triggered the death of the dab. Salisbury said, “We’ve actually graphed the evolution of the dab and while it was already in slight decline before Slater did his one on national television, it clearly takes a steep dive afterwards. It just never really recovered from that dive, and was officially declared dead only months later.”
Salisbury’s findings support a similar theory presented by linguistics expert Sam Carridale who first spoke to The Watsonia Bugle in April this year about the term “jumping the shark” having actually jumped the shark. At the time, Carridale said, “There are some very common indicators of a term or trend hitting its peak and then heading back down to being off-trend and/or heading back to obscurity. The main two indicators are being used by your parents of aunties/uncles, and/or being spoken about on breakfast television.” While Slater’s fateful actions don’t technically fall into those categories, they’re very close.