"Yay long"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Sep 28 19:06:52 UTC 2013

On Sep 28, 2013, at 12:57 PM, W Brewer wrote:

> My Chapman's 1986 calls it "A sort of demonstrative adverb used with
> adjectives of size, height, extent, etc. and often accompanied by a hand
> gesture indicating size". 1950s & esp black. "To this extent; this; so".
> Spells it <yea> (YAY).
In the old days, Charles Fillmore used to point out that "yay" is the one word that can't be sensibly uttered over the phone. (Other demonstratives have anaphoric uses, but "yay" doesn't, in contexts like "The fish I caught was {this/that/yay} big.  And you could even say "The agreement is this close to being signed" without prior mention of what "this" is, but not "The agreement is yay close to being signed" without my being able to see you holding your fingers apart…yay much.

Of course that was before iChat, Skype, and other picture phone conversations.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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