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Crazy Literary Fact: The Word "Yahoo"

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Crazy Literary Fact: The Word "Yahoo"

The word "Yahoo" has been used to describe a lot of things and it's even the name of a top internet company which uses the word to denote enthusiasm and excitement. But the origins of the word "Yahoo" are far from exciting or even pleasant.

"Yahoos" are a group encountered in Jonathan Swift's social satire Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver describes the Yahoos as animals: " . . . deformed . . . . Their heads and breasts were covered with thick hair . . . but the rest of their bodies were bare . . . . They had no tails and often stood on their hind feet . . . ." He concludes with, "I never beheld in all my travels so disagreeable an animal."

Although they are human in form and feature, the Yahoos are, indeed, animals. They are filthy and they stink. They are omnivorous but seem to prefer meat and garbage. They are "the most filthy, noisome, and deformed animals which nature ever produced . . . " and they are "restive and indocible, mischievous and malicious."

Why would an internet company want to name itself like this?


David Marshall
David Marshall

Point well taken, Jeevan, but I gotta beleive that the co-founders of the company, Jerry Yang and David Filo, were thinking more of the interjection "Yay!" or "Yippee!" form of "Yahoo!" insead of the derogatory noun version, but they probably should have known it was going to catch up to them sooner or later.

August 30, 2016