Old-school fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise may have noticed something interesting in the run-up to Nickelodeon’s upcoming animated reboot: the lack of cowabungas.

The Turtles’ standby catch phrase — first introduced in the ’50s by The Howdy Doody Show and later popularized by TMNT‘s Michelangelo— has so far been conspicuously absent from the new series. Meanwhile, another four-syllable exclamation has appeared in its stead: booyakasha, a word strongly associated with Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Ali G character.

What, we wondered, is up with that? Ciro Nieli, executive producer of Nickelodeon’s TMNT update, had some answers for us.

“There was a lot of talk about what the new ‘cowabunga’ was, or whether it should even remain ‘cowabunga,'” Neili tells EW. “We hadn’t initially come up with anything yet because we didn’t really necessarily need it [at the time].”

“But then when we were at the record, one of the actors — Greg Cipes, who actually plays Michelangelo — just kind of went for it,” Nieli explains. “When he said it in the room, there were a lot of executives there. I think it was our first record. And it was that moment when he said it — I think he just really pulled it off and kind of won everybody over in the room. And it stuck.”

But diehard fans shouldn’t mourn the loss of cowabunga just yet. “That cowabunga replacement is one of many things we say,” Neili says. “And we might actually — I think cowabunga might be coming. We just wanted to wait on it. We didn’t want to do everything at once.”

So, today’s children are about to witness a cowabunga-free Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least for a while. How do you TMNT OGs take that news? Do you applaud the new series’ decision to develop its own voice, or is this on par with suddenly giving the gang an alien backstory? Let us know!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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  • Steve Barron