Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali's "Float Like A Butterfly Sting Like A Bee" Line & Its Use In "Fly Girl" Foot Stomping Cheers

Edited by Azizi Powell

[revised July 31, 2017]

I woke up to the news that Muhammad Ali had died last night, June 3, 2016.

Muhammad Ali was a symbol of Black pride throughout the world not just because of his world championship boxing titles, but also because of his intelligence and wit. One of the bragging lines that Mohammad Ali was known for was "I am the greatest." Another bragging line that he was known for was his response to the question "How will you fight George Forman?" Muhammad Ali said "I'm gonna float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee..."

Muhammed ali - Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee.wmv

Uploaded by misterals on Apr 14, 2010

Poem by Muhammed ali

(Muhammad Ali, 1974)

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
George’s hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.
Now you see me, now you don't.
He thinks he will, but I know he won't.
They tell me George is good.
But I’m twice as nice.
And I’m gonna stick to his butt
like white on rice.
This rap was composed by Muhammad Ali before his fight with George Foreman, 1974.

Transcription by Azizi Powell from the above video.

Click for a pancocojams post that includes this video and another video of this rap for Muhammad Ali's even more iconic bragging statement "I am the greatest."

In African American Vernacular English a "fly girl" is a hip, street wise, self-confident young female. Here's a definition from
A flygirl is a sexy chic with a swag all her own. She is confident and just exudes hawtness! Her outfit fits right in with her personality and she is always the shutter of all things down!
She shut that club DOWN last night. Thats what I call a FLYGIRL!
#fly #confident #sexy #swagged #hot stuff"
by Flygirl617 August 09, 2010
This definition of the slang term "fly girl" isn't the same meaning of that term that is used in mainstream cheerleading.
From To Fly or Not to Fly What exactly is a flyer in Cheerleading? Do you have what it takes to be one? Learn more and read these tips about flying.
"The position of flyer in Cheerleading goes by many names; flier, mounter, top, climber, or floater, but regardless of what you call it, it is the person (yes, men fly too) at the top of a stunt, the one that gets lifted or thrown in the air. It is probably the most sought-after position in Cheerleading in that it offers the thrill and exhilaration of gracefully flying through the air and becoming the center of attention"...

What isn't widely known is that as early as 1985 Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" line had found its way into the lyrics of a foot stomping cheer called "Fly Girl". The "Fly Girl" cheer is largely inspired by the 1985 record "Fly Girl" by the Boogie Boys
That song's beat perfectly fit the usual stomp stomp clap/stomp stomp clap choreography of foot stomping cheers.

These examples are numbered for referencing purposes only.

FLY GIRL (Version #1)
Group: Fly girl one.
Fly girl two
Pump it up, Teresa,
Just like you do (or, “Show me what you do”)
Soloist #1: “Oh” (or “Well”) My name is Teresa
Group: What?
Soloist #1: And I’m a fly girl.
Group: What?
Soloist #1: It takes a lot of men
To rock my world.
‘Cause I can fly like a butterfly,
Sting like a bee.
And that’s why they call me

Repeat the cheer from the beginning with the next soloist. Replace the former soloist’s name or nickname with the name or nickname of the new soloist. Continue until every one has had one turn as soloist.
--Collected by Azizi Powell, African American female (T.M.P.) audio recorded in 1992 (memories of the mid 1980s)

FLY GIRL (Version #2)
Group: Fly girl one.
Fly girl two.
Pump it up. Ayesha.
Just like you do.
Soloist #1: My name is Ayesha.
Group: What?
Soloist #1: (And) I’m a fly girl.
Group: What?
Soloist #1: I’m rough and tough
And I can strut my stuff.
Cause I can sway.
Group: She can sway.
Soloist #1: And I can even do the go go reggae.
Let it flow
Group: She can even do the go go reggae.
Let it flow.

Repeat the cheer from the beginning with the next soloist who substitutes the name of a current dance step, always placing the word reggae after the dance name. Continue until every group member has had one turn as soloist.
- African American girls; age 10 years {Lillian Taylor Summer Camp, Kinsley Association), Pittsburgh, PA 1992)

FLY GIRL (Version #3)
Group: Fly girl one.
Fly girl two.
Pump it up, Shavona
Just like you do.
Soloist #1: My name is Shavona.
Group: Yeah.
Soloist #1: And I’m a fly girl.
Group: Yeah.
Soloist #1: I know karate.
And I got the body [pronounced “boh-day”to rhyme with “karate]
All you got to do
is put a move in the groove.
You jump side to side.
Front to back.
And break it down with the
“Cabbage Patch”
- African American girls, around ages 6-12 years, Lillian Taylor Camp, Pittsburgh, PA. 1989-1992

FLY GIRL (Version #4)
Fly girl!

Fly girl
Fly girl
Flyyyyyyyyyyyyyy girl

Fly girl
Fly girl
Flyyyyyyyyyyyyyy girl

Well my name is VACHICK and I'm and fly girl
It takes 100 boys to rock my world ( I should not have been cheering about this!)
I fly like butterfly, sting like a Bee
And that's why they call me SE-XY!!:
-Virginia chick,, 8/18/2016

SUPERFLY GIRL (Version #5)
[YouTube video from 2010 of a practice performance of this cheer]

our cheer super fly girl

LABELmeCUTE, Uploaded on Jul 31, 2010

ok so heres another video from vegas i never got to upload i know its later but here it is,there were just cheering in the hall way in the circus circus hotel(excuse all of the popping lol)
from row.:Hakiyah,Haley
I think the Westside Jaguars are a cheer squad that is associated with the Westside Jaguars (Los Angeles, California; Google Search, Facebook)

Here's my transcription of that cheer: (Additions and corrections are very welcome.)

Lead- Attention
Group- Jaguars!
Lead- Jaguars, attention
Group- West side
Lead- Give it to me one time
West side
Give it to me two times
Lead- Break it on down.
West side Jaguars.
You know.

Lead- Who wants to be a super fly girl
Group- Okay
Group- Who wants to be a superfly girl
Soloist 1 (Hakiyah) - I do I do I do
My name is Hakiyah. I’m a super fly girl
I roll with the Jaguars all around the world
Cause I can float like a butterfly
Sting like a bee
That’s why they call me Kiyah.
[Girl does a dance or acrobatic movement like a split]
Hakiyah - Go Kiyah. Go Kiyah go.
Group- Go Kiyah. Go Kiyah go.

[The rest of the group does the same movements that Kiyah just did. Kiyah stands and watches them.

The cheer begins from the beginning with the same words except that the new soloist says her name and her nickname and does another dance and/or acrobatic movements. This pattern continues until everyone has one equal turn as the soloist.]
The tune and tempo that is used for the part of this cheer that begins with "My name is Hakiyah. I’m a super fly girl" and that ends with "That’s why they call me Kiyah" is the same tune and tempo that I recall seeing and hearing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the mid 1980s.

FLY GIRL (Version #6)
Fly girl, Fly girl
Go girl, Go girl
My name is coco
I'm a supafly girl
I float like a butterfly
Sting like a bee
That's why they call me
Fly girl, Fly girl
Go coco, go coco.

Basic Motion
first two lines: Scissor feet/clap
last line - improvise
-African American girls, 1999; The Mill School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), collected by Anna R. Beresin and included in the book Recess Battles: Playing, Fighting, and Storytelling, by Anna R. Beresin (Univ. Press of Mississippi, May 27, 2011; page 107).

The geographical locations for these examples are"
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
Los Angeles, California;
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I found this example while reading an archived copy of the foot stomping cheer pages from my no longer active website. This cheer includes the "float like a butterfly/sting like a bee" verse, but doesn't include the words "fly girl":
FLY GIRL (Version #6)
I learned this from my girl sara My name is (enter your name)
and as u can see i the finest chick in Albany
im rough and though cant touch my stuff m
fly like a butterflie i sting like a bee thats why all the boys
tell me break it down shawty
-Samantha;, 11/25/2008
"Albany" probably refers to Albany, New York.

Do you know this example of any other versions of "Fly Girl"? If so, please share it with pancocojams and remember to include demographic information, particularly the geographical location (city and state) and when you learned this cheer (year or decade). Thanks!

An Overview Of Foot Stomping Cheers
What "Fly", "Fly Girl" & "Fly Guy" Mean In African American Slang

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Muhammad Ali for his life's legacy. RIP. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to those who are featured in this video. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Every front page of every newspaper in Britain today headlines with a tribute to Muhammad Ali.


  3. I met Muhammad Ali in person in 1969.

    At that time, I was living with African American poetess Sonia Sanchez and was working for her as a nanny for her toddler twin boys.

    I represented Sonia Sanchez at a weekend Black cultural event at Indiana University when she was unable to make that engagement. (I read some of Sonia Sanchez' poems, and a few of mine.)

    I wasn't aware that Muhammad Ali was also scheduled to speak at that cultural event. But when I arrived at the airport in Bloomington, Indiana there was a huge crowd surrounding someone- and that person turned out to be the charismatic heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

    Muhammad Ali had a limousine, and somehow it happened that other people (I recall that it wasn't just Black people) who were going to the hotel near the university were invited to join Muhammad Ali in his limo. I don't remember anything more about that ride except that I felt that Muhammad Ali loved the attention that he received, especially from the young women in that limo. (I was 20 at that time, but I was much too shy to say anything to any celebrity.)

    When we arrived at the hotel, Muhammad Ali was quickly escorted up to his room. I remember someone from his entourage inviting all those who rode in the limousine to come up to his suite. But I didn't go.

    The next day-after my presentation which I was relieved went well- I was part of a standing room only audience who attended Muhammad Ali's speech. The main thing that I remember about that speech was how articulate Muhammad Ali was. While he spoke on a wide range of subjects about Black culture, my most keen memory about that presentation was how artfully Muhammad Ali responded to a White man's question about what Muhammad Ali thought about Malcolm X.

    As background- Muhammad Ali was a Black Muslim, a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. After Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam to become a Sunni Muslim, members of the Nation of Islam were against Malcolm X. And there are even some who say that members of the Nation of Islam were responsible for Malcolm X's assassination. However, Malcolm X was Muhammad Ali's former mentor in the Nation of Islam and also was Muhammad Ali's former friend.

    And Malcolm X was (and still is) a beloved icon for many African Americans, particularly in the year 1970 when that Indiana University Black cultural event occurred, and particularly among the young afrocentric audience that attended that university event.

    So it was definitely a loaded question for someone- particularly for someone White - to ask Muhammad Ali what he thought of Malcolm X.

    Muhammad Ali artfully answered that question by denouncing the questioner's intent. I don't remember word for word what he said, but in essence Ali called out the questioner for coming to an event which celebrated Black unity and trying to turn Black people against each other. In no uncertain terms, Muhammad Ali said that he wasn't having it -that we (Black people) weren't fighting with other Black people but we were celebrating our culture and if the man who asked that question didn't like that, he could leave.

    I remember the audience loving that answer- and I knew then that Muhammad Ali could have been a great politician if he had wanted to since he had adroitly sidestepped responding in a way that would have undoubtedly turned most of the Black people in the audience against him.

    Rest in peace- Muhammad Ali AND Malcolm X.

    1. I had first written 1970 for the year that that Indiana University Black cultural program occurred. But, in thinking back, it had to have been in the fall of 1969.

      I moved to Pittsburgh in August 1969. That was the year that the University of Pitt began its Black studies program and Sonia Sanchez and her then husband Etheridge Knight and a number of other Black people, including dancer/choreographer Bob Johnson came to Pittsburgh to work at Pitt.

      During the 1970s I also met the now famous Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson.

      And that's enough name dropping for me...

    2. That's a wonderful memory, to have been actually part of historic events (and that's not an overblown description, there was indeed a major cultural shift occurring: Ali may have been a spearhead, but everyone present must have changed a little).

      I also had thought that a man of Ali's charisma and conviction might easily have become a political leader, in other circumstances. But political leaders usually can't afford the level of personal honesty that was such a big part of Ali's charm. You never felt he was spouting anything he only half-believed, which was why he commanded such respect.

    3. Yes, slam 2011, I agree that Muhammad Ali was a man who wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed.

      I wanted to share my memories of Muhammad Ali at that cultural presentation as it certainly changed my perception of that celebrity. As a result of that exchange that I described, I realized how intelligent Muhammad Ali was; how quick he could think on his feet.

      But then again, if I had been more knowledgeable about his boxing meets, I probably would have realized that Ali thought quick on his feet during those fights.

    4. But Muhammad Ali's boasts like
      "Float like a butterfly
      Sting like a bee
      George’s hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.
      Now you see me, now you don't.
      He thinks he will, but I know he won't."...

      are proof that Muhammad Ali also planned how he would fight and showed that he could successfully carry out those plans.

  4. Here's some information that was sent to me about the term "fly girl":

    "I looked up "fly girl" in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to see if it had historical antecedents. It has. More Regency slang it seems - it's strange that an era associated with Jane Austen's prose also created so much surviving slang!

    "Fly:. Knowing, wide-awake, sharp. fly to (anything): 'up' to, well acquainted with, clever at."
    1811 Lexicon Balatronicum (at cited word), Fly..The rattling cove is fly; the coachman knows what we are about.

    1825 C. M. Westmacott Eng. Spy II. 5 You are fly to cant.

    1851 H. Mayhew London Labour II. 109/2 We're rather ‘fly to a dodge’.

    1853 Dickens Bleak House xvi. 159 ‘I am fly,’ says Jo.

    Also has an entry on a specifically American usage from 1859, a 'fly cop', an adroit and able officer. "


    Thanks to the pancocojams reader for sending me that information.

    I'm very surprised that that meaning of "fly" is so old.

    But, in retrospect, old words and phrases get recycled all the time, on purpose or by accident since there's nothing new under the sun.