If you wanna be one of the guys, you gotta talk like one of the guys. The lesson of this masculinity cartoon by Hartley Lin in the New Yorker of 4/25 & 5/2:

Being one of the boys here is fitting into (what I’ve called) a male band, a group of mutually supportive, like-minded, and like-acting bros. (See the section on “The social organization of men in modern America” in my 1/6/21 posting “Another 1996 Superbowl moment”.) Like-acting because the band monitors its members’ behavior and enforces the band norms, which the band members see as matters of masculinity display.

Two kinds of masculinity display. A core type that I’ll call negative masculinity display, characterized by avoidance of anything that smacks of women or girls. And a more purely conventional type — positive masculinity display — characterized by adhering to local norms of behavior that are simply “how guys do it” — stuff that males pick up from other males. (The terminology is loosely based on negative and positive politeness; see the Wikipedia section on the politeness types, following Brown & Levinson.)

Green Hand (who’s a green ‘inexperienced’ ranch hand) has come up short on a linguistic bit of positive masculinity in this band of ranch hands: as the older hand explains to him in an avuncular way, the appropriate bro-xclamation there for expressing exuberance is yee-haw, not yahoo. Now, if Green Hand had used yoo-hoo, he would have been off on two linguistic counts: in negative masculinity (yoo-hoo is fairly strongly gendered, for use primarily by women); and in actual semantic content, yoo-hoo being a call, not an expression of emotion.

Lexicographic notes. From NOAD:

excl. yee-haw (also yee-hah): North American an expression of enthusiasm or exuberance, typically associated with cowboys or rural inhabitants of the southern US. ORIGIN natural exclamation: first recorded in American English in the 1970s. [AZ: strongly gendered, as masculine]

excl. yahoo-2: expressing great joy or excitement: yahoo — my plan worked! ORIGIN natural exclamation: first recorded in English in the 1970s. [AZ: my impression is that this one is gendered too, as masculine, but more weakly]

excl. yoo-hoo: a call used to attract attention to one’s arrival or presence: Yoo-hoo! — Is anyone there? ORIGIN natural exclamation: first recorded in English in the 1920s.

Hartley Lin. The cartoonist, who was new to me. From the Pope Hats / Hartley Lin site, with minimal information.

Hartley Lin (formerly known by the pseudonym Ethan Rilly) is a cartoonist based in Montreal, Canada. Young Frances, the first collection from his ongoing comic book Pope Hats, [appeared in 2018]. He has drawn for The New Yorker, The Hollywood Reporter, Slate, Taddle Creek and HarperCollins.

The publisher’s blurb for Young Frances:

After insomniac law clerk Frances Scarland is recruited by her firm’s most notorious senior partner, she seems poised for serious advancement – whether she wants it or not. But when her impulsive best friend Vickie decides to move to the opposite coast for an acting role, Frances’ confusing existence starts to implode…

An intimate study of work chaos and close friendships over time.

And (on the Amazon site) from the New York Times:

Young Frances is half coming-of-age story (female-friendship variety), half office novel. Lin’s line is both romantic and scrupulously composed, with precise framing that can recall a Wes Anderson tableau. The dialogue ranges from deadly accurate corporate jargon (“How long do you think you can survive without deliverables?”) to the kind of stuff you’d utter only to your closest friend (“People can get tapeworms in their brain, right?”). And Lin knows precisely when to let a few panels of premium Canadian silence sink in. (One character is shown reading – wait for it – Alice Munro.)

Well, of course, Alice Munro.

2 Responses to “Bro-xclamation”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    “First recorded in English in the 1970s” surprised me for exclamatory “yahoo” (as distinguished from the tribe so named by Jonathan Swift much longer ago). But I suppose “recorded” is key here. My memory might be (is often) faulty, but I really do think that I heard celebratory “yahoo” at least as long ago as the ’60s.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Indeed. I’m very suspicious of the first datings for both yee-haw and exclamatory yahoo. But what we see is what the Oxford files have. (No doubt some targeted searches would improve that, but I am not actually a lexicographer and lack the tools for such a search, not to mention the time to take on such a project.)

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