"Yay long"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Sat Sep 28 22:59:54 UTC 2013

Fwi, this discussion reminds me of the Russian word "eto" (= this). Russian "to" means "that" and "e-" here derives from an exclamation.  So, a bit like "Hey! (+ "to").  --- I still remember this from graduate school.

"Yay" looks like an interesting addition to a list of words deriving from an exclamation.

Gerald Cohen

Jonathan Lighter wrote, September 28, 2013 4:37 PM

Bugs Bunny used it. He's neither black nor human. I believe the phrase was
"Oh, about yay by yay," with appropriate gestures.

I don't know the the title or the date of the cartoon, but it was probably
in the early '50s.

To judge from GB and NewspaperArchive.com, it seems to be very rare in


On Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrot=

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Yay long"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> 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 han=
> > 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 caug=
> 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=E5=8E=83ay much.
> Of course that was before iChat, Skype, and other picture phone
> conversations.
> LH
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