"Yay long"

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sat Sep 28 23:09:24 UTC 2013

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/yea) traces this back to OE, then Proto-Germanic and PIE, undifferentiated from "yea" meaning yes.

The OED speculates that "yay" comes from "yea."

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

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On Sep 28, 2013, at 2:37 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> 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
> print.
> JL
> On Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrot=
> e:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> 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=
> d
>>> 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=
> ht
>> 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.

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