The Origins of ‘Ye-ha’

Ye-ha!

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Mothers don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys

This evocative vocalization is indicative of the American cowboy. It is often used to represent joy and the foolhardy gung-ho ambition of the Wild West.

But where did this phrase come from?

Ye is actually a misspelling, from when English still used the letter ‘thorn’, which is pronounced ‘th’. However continental printing presses did not have that character, so some printers just used a ‘y’ instead. This is why you often see ‘ye olde tavern’ or whatnot. It’s actually just a ‘the’ using the surrogate ‘y’.

Thorn was long a thorn in the side of printers

Ha is an abbreviation for ‘hectare’, a measurement of land.

Thus ye-ha is properly pronounced ‘the-hectare’, though shortened for easy pronunciation. It was used by cowboys to vocally ward off competing cowboys, much like song birds sing to let their presence be known in their territory.

The territorial marking of hectares is an ancient practice.

 

Ye-ha!

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