James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Wed Apr 2 01:21:15 UTC 2008

Apologies if I missed comment on this already while zipping through
back emails trying to catch up, but I find it interesting that OED's
earliest cite for the interjection (which I remember from my
childhood, as do I also remember the noun form) is 1976.

I had thought that the first place it was used as an interjection was
in Swift's own book, with Gulliver trying it on that way, but on
reference I find it not quite so:

I could frequently distinguish the Word Yahoo, which was repeated by
each of them several times; and altho' it was impossible for me to
conjecture what it meant; yet while the two Horses were busy in
Conversation, I endeavoured to practice this Word upon my Tongue; and
as soon as they were silent, I boldly pronounced Yahoo in a loud
Voice, imitating, at the same time, as near as I could, the Neighing
of a Horse; at which they were both visibly surprized, and the Gray
repeated the same Word twice, as if he meant to teach me the right
Accent, wherein I spoke after him as well as I could, and found
myself perceivably to improve every time, though very far from any
Degree of Perfection. Then the Bay tried me with a second Word, much
harder to be pronounced; but reducing it to the English Orthography,
may be spelt thus, Houyhnhnm. I did not succeed in this so well as
the former, but after two or three farther Trials, I had better
Fortune; and they both appeared amazed at my Capacity.

And Major Kong (Slim Pickens) doesn't quite seem to shout "yahoo!"
exactly as he rides the bomb down in Dr. Strangelove, though he does
come close -- judge for yourselves:

But surely "yahoo" has been around longer than 32 years as an
interjection! Where's Barry Popik when we need him?

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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