DFW Music News

An Old Question Resurfaces: Is Bowling for Soup Trying to Earn Soup or Bowling on Its Behalf?

Pop-punk group Bowling for Soup celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019. That's how long they've been answering questions about the band's name.
Pop-punk group Bowling for Soup celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019. That's how long they've been answering questions about the band's name. Will von Bolton
Bowling for Soup has been a mainstay in the music industry since the band first formed in the mid-1990s. The Wichita Falls pop-punk band has earned a Grammy nomination and certified radio hits such as “1985” (trust us — you’ve heard it.) and lent the theme song to the mega popular animated Disney series Phinneas and Ferb.

Undoubtedly, the band’s name has also been a big part of Bowling for Soup's appeal, and 27 years after we first heard it, it continues to tickle internet sleuths intent on solving a grammatical mystery.

The origin of the phrase itself — and not its intent — has also been a longtime discussion. Four years ago, one naive Quora user who thought he’d find a straight answer in the discussion forum, asked “What Does ‘Bowling for Soup’ mean?” only to receive more unbacked theories among the responses than can be found on your aunt's posts about coronavirus.

“There was a 1970s-1980s game show/sports competition called Bowling for Dollars,” was one response. “It seems likely the band, whose members would have been growing up during this timeframe, substituted 'soup' in an absurdist commentary on something that was already pretty absurd.”


Another said: “Nothing. I once read an interview where they said that they wrote down words and randomly picked three out of a hat and got 'Bowling for Soup.'"

And someone named Balti offered: “It's a play on the Super Bowl. If it becomes the Soup-er Bowl, and you see Bowl as bowling (the game), then you’re Bowling for Soup. It's probably not as clever or obvious as they had hoped.”

In 2003, MTVNews.com reported that Bowling for Soup got their name “from a Steve Martin comedy routine about a game show called 'Bowling for Sh—.' However, fearing a serious beat-down if their grannies saw a flyer with that profane name on it, the group swapped out a few letters.”

But today, the internet is less concerned with the name's provenance than with its actual meaning, and a screenshot of a tweet from 2017 is once again going viral.


The original tweet by Wiffleball Tony ponders this food for thought: "Are they bowling to earn soup or bowling on behalf of soup?"

Singer Jaret Reddick, who is also a producer for bands such as Not Ur Girlfrienz, answered the age-old question in a Huffington Post interview from December 2017.
“Our band is our job," Reddick told the publication. "So, I guess, soup could be another way of saying ‘income’ or ‘food.’ With that being said, I guess it would have to be that we are bowling to earn soup.”

Well, that settles that.

The seemingly anarchical, confusing rules of the English language are a never-cooling hot topic on Twitter, and the North Texas band's name seems like a page out of a Ricky Ricardo rant about the quirks found in English grammar.

Reddick finds it funny that the question keeps resurfacing.

“That meme is the gift that keeps on giving! Every few weeks or so, my socials and even my phone blow up with 'inquiring minds wanna know,'" he tells the Observer. “Honestly, I’ve answered this many times, as has Chris [Burney, BFS’s guitarist], but at this point, I like it out there as is. If you wanna know the answer, Google it! If not, I’m just glad you are thinking about my band.”

Reddick says the question also comes up frequently when he’s approached by fans in person.

“People ask me at parties, at shows, during interviews, and at the grocery store," he says. "Any time I’m having a conversation, and someone says, 'I’ve always wanted to ask you this,' I’m like, 'Here we go!'

"It’s the new 'How did y’all get your name?' Most of the time I just say 'Google is your friend.' But again, it’s nice to be the topic of conversation.”
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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio