I read last week in Diary of a Crossword Fiend about a mini crossword tournament in Queens with the splendid name Lollapuzzoola '08. Shortly thereafter I noted PreFabapalooza, the headline on a set of links about prefabricated housing (thanks for the Del.icio.us link, Rowland Hobbs!). So I began thinking about all the ways in which lollapazoola has infiltrated our vocabularies.
Now, it may be that the only lollapalooza you've heard of is Lollapalooza, the American music festival first held in 1991. (It's taking place this year in Chicago's Grant Park, August 1 through 3.) According to a Wikipedia entry, Jane's Addiction singer Perry Ferrell--who conceived and created the festival--chose the name after hearing it used in a Three Stooges film.
But the Stooges didn't invent "lollapalooza"; it was already well entrenched in American vocabularies by the 1930s. The cartoonist Rube Goldberg introduced a female character named Lala Palooza in 1936. Going back further, there's an 1898 citation from The Sporting News (discovered here):
He is saying his team next season will contain a whole lot of lalapaloosas --" "What is a lalapaloosa?" "A lalapaloosa, my son, is a crackerjack."
Webster's Third International Dictionary gives the preferred spelling as "lalapalooza," and defines it as "something superior or unusual; an outstanding example." The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary prefers "lallapaloosa," but I'm going with the American Heritage Dictionary, which opts for "lollapalooza." All three sources say "origin unknown." However, in The American Language, published in 1921, H.L Mencken took a stab at an etymology:
Lallapalooza is also probably an Irish loan-word, though it is not Gaelic. It apparently comes from allay-foozee, a Mayo provincialism, signifying a sturdy fellow. Allay-foozee, in its turn, comes from the French allez-fusil, meaning "Forward the muskets!"
Au contraire, says DGW, commenting on the Phrase Finder bulletin board:
I doubt Mencken's story. My casual guess is that "lollapalooza" is a frivolous expansion of "lulu" in the same sense (which dates from at least as early as 1857) (there were other equivalents, "lolly", "la-la", etc.). But where is the evidence, for Mencken's theory or mine?
After capital-L Lollapalooza caught on, -palooza began floating free. The Urban Dictionary treats palooza as an independent word whose top definition is:
A crazy fuckin party whose purpose is to re-release an indivivual [sic] back into the world of dating when their significant other dumps them, ending a long term relationship.