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April 24, 2016

“Yada Yada Yada…”

Yada Yada quote Seinfeld
During its long, successful original run on NBC, from 1989 to 1998, the Seinfeld TV show created or popularized many catchphrases.

Some of the best known are:
       ● the famed snub of the “Soup Nazi,” “No soup for you!”
       ● the sexual euphemism “master of your domain”
       ● the food-related faux pas term “double dip”
       ● and, the handy denial of prejudice, “Not that there's anything wrong with that.”

My own favorite Seinfeld catchphrase is “Yada yada yada.”

It was first used in the episode that originally aired on April 24, 1997, appropriately titled “The Yada Yada” (Season 8, Episode 19).

In that episode, the phrase is initially used by the character Marcy (played by Suzanne Cryer), a girlfriend of George Costanza (Jason Alexander), while she’s talking to George and Jerry Seinfeld.

The conversation goes like this:

MARCY:  You know, a friend of mine thought she got Legionnaire’s Disease in the hot tub.
GEORGE:  Really? What happened?
MARCY:  Oh, yada yada yada, just some bad egg salad. I'll be right back. (She gets up)
JERRY:  I noticed she’s big on the phrase “yada yada.”
GEORGE:  Is “yada yada” bad?
JERRY:  No, “yada yada” is good. She’s very succinct.
GEORGE:  She is succinct.
JERRY:  Yeah, it’s like you’re dating
USA Today.

As the episode proceeds, almost all the characters start using “yada yada yada” (or sometimes just “yada” or “yada yada”) as a way to gloss over and shorten descriptions of things, much like people use “et cetera, et cetera” or “blah blah blah” or “and so on, and so forth.”

I think one of the funniest uses is by George.

It’s in a scene now immortalized on YouTube under the title “George Costanza Life Story.”

MARCY:  So I'm on Third Avenue, minding my own business and, yada yada yada, I get a free massage and a facial.
GEORGE:  Wow. What a succinct story.
MARCY:  I’m surprised you drive a Cadillac.
GEORGE:  Oh, it’s not mine. It’s my mother’s.
MARCY:  Oh. Are you close with your parents?
GEORGE:  Well, they gave birth to me, and, yada yada.
MARCY:  Yada what?
GEORGE:  Yada yada yada…

“The Yada Yada” script was written by veteran TV writer and producer Steve Koren, a former member of the Saturday Night Live writing team who wrote or co-wrote dozens of other Seinfeld episodes. He also scripted a number of popular movies, including Bruce Almighty, Click, Superstar and A Night at the Roxbury.

Koren didn’t coin the phrase “yada yada yada.”

But the origin is still being debated by linguists and etymology buffs.

Some believe it is Jewish-American “Yiddish” slang that may have descended from the Hebrew word “yada” or “yadaa,” which means tell, know or show.

Other language mavens think the Yiddish/Hebrew theory is totally fakakta.

The renowned Oxford English Dictionary contributor Barry Popik cites a list of possible precursors from the English language on his excellent Big Apple site.

The OED itself suggests that “yada” may have been derived from the British word “yatter,” meaning mindless chatter.

A Norwegian source has also been postulated.

In the Norwegian language, the letter J is pronounced as Y. So, the Norwegian word “jada,” meaning “yeah,” is pronounced as “yada.” And, “jada jada jada” is used by Norwegians in the same disbelieving or dismissive way English-speaking people use “yeah yeah yeah.” (As in, “Yeah, sure.”)

The bottom line when you read all the yada yada yada in the various theories is that the linguistic origin is uncertain.

What is certain is that the Seinfeld show gets and deserves the credit for making “yada yada yada” familiar to millions of people.

And, although the one and only appearance of the character Marcy in the Seinfeld show was in “The Yada Yada” episode of Season 8, she gets the credit for being the first Seinfeld character to use that now immortal catchphrase.

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