[Ads-l] antedating "yay"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 24 06:05:33 UTC 2021

In a recent episode of the Merriam-Webster podcast "Words Matter," Emily
Brewster mentions that the interjection "yay" has only been dated by M-W to
1963, surprisingly enough. (OED3's earliest cite is from the same year.)


On Twitter, Daniel Radosh noted that "yay hooray" appears in the 1954 Marc
Blitzstein translation of "The Wedding Song" from "The Threepenny Opera."

Inspired by this, I managed to find examples of "yay" collocating with
"hooray" from the 1920s, in Martin Branner's comic strip "Winnie Winkle."
In both of these cites, the characters are young children celebrating among

"Winnie Winkle," Chicago Tribune, June 4, 1922, Comics, p. 2
"Yay, fellers! My pop's gonna umpire th' game for us!"
"Hooray for Perry Winkle!"
"Winnie Winkle," Kansas City Star, June 13, 1926, Comics, p. 2
"Hooray for Muggsy!"
"Yay - Muggsy won th' game for us!!"

There are earlier examples of "yay" in comic strips, e.g.:

"Squirrel Food," Meriden (Conn.) Daily Journal, July 3, 1918, p. 10
"Yay! Yay!"

...but that's not clearly a celebratory exclamation like the later ones.


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

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