Yee-ha(w) / "Rebel yell"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Dec 5 15:52:23 UTC 2006

Maybe.  And lest Sam feel like chopped liver, if "Yankee Stan" Freberg did yell "Yee-ha(w)!" in 1955 (rather than "Ya-hoo!") it was a significant moment in American life. My original point is that now people seemingly are yelling "Yee-ha(w)!" all over the world as the "standard" lexeme for what used to be "Yahoo!" or "Whoopee!"  It's become so prevalent that people are retrofitting it to documented "Yahoos!" like Slim Pickens's.

  My impression is that hardly anyone was doing this - or at least putting it in print - before the 1970s.  It is only since then, the evidence suggests, that "Yee-ha(w)!" has become the norm.  Something must have led to this change. But what ?

  A well-known Gary Larson cartoon depicts space creatures buzzing a city street in their saucer and shrieking, "Yee-ha(w) !" (My spelling.) It comes from the early ' 80s.  I don't think an earlier generation of aliens would have said "Yee-ha(w) !" but am not being dogmatic here.

  Here's a third, much earlier,  suggestion that relates the "rebel yell" to fox-hunting:

  1895 John Fox, Jr. "Fox-Hunting in Kentucky" _Century Mag._ (Aug.) 626: For when the Southern fox-hunter starts after his hounds through wood and thicket...and opens his throat to cry on his favorite hound, you know at last the origin of the "rebel yell," and you hear it again but little changed to-day.

  Novelist Fox, a Kentuckian, unfortunately was not born till 1862, but he was likely familiar with both kinds of yells as emitted postbellum by his elders.

  Finally:  Read's research showed there was no single, officially prescribed "rebel yell."  The descriptions we have, however, compare the usual overall effect of the massed voices to a distinctive howl.  The veteran who yelled "Yai! Yi!" etc. could well have been imitating the shrill barking of hounds on the chase.

  If iconic currency of "Yee-ha(w)!" goes back to the Civil War - as latter-day journalists blithely assume - or even to 1950, there should be plenty - but plenty - of pre-1975 evidence.

  Where is it ?

Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Charles Doyle
Subject: Re: Yee-ha(w) / "Rebel yell"

Maybe the Arkansawyer was hearing the elongated final syllable of the Razorback yell?


---- Original message ----
>Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2006 15:22:29 -0800
>From: Jonathan Lighter
>Subject: Re: Yee-ha(w) / "Rebel yell"

> A friend from SW Arkansas more or less scoffs at the idea that "Yee-ha(w)" is Southern or very old. He thinks of it as "more Western," though isn't sure why. He recalls grown men screaming something like "EEEEEEEEHEEEEEEEEE !" while watching football on TV in the early '60s, but that's the best he can do.
> JL

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