This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yippee Ki Yay Mother...

This post took me on a long strange trip. You see, I stumbled across this fantastic Scots expression, gontrum niddles, which is a cry of joy. You think it's awesome to read? Say it out loud. I'll wait. I'd like to say I'll start using it, but it's always hard to work crazy exclamations in so that they seem organic. Plus I've been saying holy bananas lately, and I really like that one too.
Anyway, my new favorite expression got me thinking about exclamations in general, happy ones in specific. This post isn't about that. I got a bit sidetracked. See, I looked up the word yippee in the Online Etymology Dictionary, which informed me that it's an expression of joy from the 1920s, and that's all it gave me. I don't trust words that spring fully formed into the language. Nor, I was pretty sure, was yippee that young a word. I mean, didn't cowboys say it?
Okay, so I start Googling (there's another word you should say out loud right now). I find this oddly serious Slate article about yippee ki yay mother fucker, the catch phrase from Die Hard. Bruce Willis says the line after the bad guy accuses him of just being an American who watched too many cowboy movies as a child. The franchise goes on to overuse the catch phrase about a million more times, which is too bad really, because it was really, really funny exactly once. But I digress as usual.
All right, so more evidence that cowboys used the word/expression. I keep digging. Yippee ki yay shows up in the country song Ghost Riders in the Sky, which Stan Jones wrote in 1958. I learned, by the way, that this song is a retelling of the Wild Hunt, one of those stories present in the ancient mythologies of a whole bunch of different cultures, like the great flood.
Yippee Ki Yay also shows up in the song, I'm an Old Cowhand, written in 1936 and made famous by Bing Crosby. I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty bad. But with lyrics like "I'm a cowboy who never saw a cow/ never roped a steer because I don't know how/and I sho' ain't fixin' to start in now," it could describe most of today's country singers.
Yippee shows up in The Old Chisholm Trail, a folk song that goes back to somewhere in the 1800s, repeated throughout as a sort of refrain: Come a ti yi yippee, come a ti yi yea. And that, kids, is where I gave up the trail because I got Googled out.

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