There are several theories as to where the phrase “yada. . .yada” comes from. This phrase is a modern-day equivalent of “blah, blah, blah,” meaning, of course, a disparaging response, indicating that something previously said was predictable, repetitive or tedious.
The earliest of these theories is that the phrase first appeared in the 1947 American musical Allegro by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers contains a song called Yatata, Yatata, Yatata, about cocktail party chatter.
Closely tied to the above idea is the theory that the phrase may be found in an advertisement in an August 1948 edition of the Long Beach Independent: “Yatata … yatata … the talk is all about Chatterbox, Knox’s own little Tomboy Cap with the young, young come-on look!”
Lenny Bruce did use the phrase in his 1961 recording of Father Flotski’s Triumph, a story of a prison riot led by an inmate named Dutch. In the piece, the Warden says: “All right, Dutch. This is the Warden. You’ve got eighteen men down there – prison guards who have served me faithfully. Give up, Dutch, and we’ll meet any reasonable demands your men want… Can you hear me? This is the Warden.” Dutch responds: “Yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, Warden.”
Bruce also used something very like the phrase in his Essential Lenny Bruce in 1967: “They’re no good, the lot of them – ‘Yaddeyahdah’ – They’re animals!”
Still others claim that the term “Yada yad” itself is first found in singer-songwriter Dory Previn’s album Mythical Kings and Iguanas in March 1971, which included the song Yada Yada La Scala:
Yada yada La Scala
yada yada yada yada yada
Let’s stop talking talking talking
wasting precious time
Just a lot of empty noise
that isn’t worth a dime
Words of wonder
words of whether
should we shouldn’t we
Yada yada yada yada yada
Many will point out that the phrase was popularized in the United States in the late 1990s by the TV show Seinfeld, in which it appears as a catchphrase in the Season 8, Episode 19, entitled “The Yada Yada,” originally aired on 24 April 1997. In this episode, the story-line centers around the phrase (in the duplicative “yada yada” form). Since its pop-culture debut, we have added the phrase to our collective lexicon by saying “yada yada yada” when we want to gloss over sexual encounters, avoid incriminating details, or when cutting out parts of a story to get to the punch line. While this theory has some merit, I am certain that I heard the phrase long before the Seinfeld show.
In some quarters, the answer as to the origin of the phrase “yada, yada” is that it came from the word “yatter,” a British word meaning “idle talk, chatter.” I do not believe that many Americans are familiar with the word, but it is at least understandable how “yatter” might become “yada, yada” in British English and then cross the Atlantic in that form, but is it in any way the origin of the term? I doubt it.
There is further a theory that the word “yada” is a Hebrew word that means “to know.” Actually, the word is versatile and has several meanings depending on the context: yada can mean “is dedicating ourselves to a person so we can engage them with our love and affection.” Or yada can mean “understanding the needs of those around us and taking care of them.” Or yada can mean “faithfully living out our covenant relationship with the LORD in every area of our life.”
All of those versions, and including “yada yada,” probably took the lead from existing words meaning incessant talk – yatter, jabber, chatter.
Of all the theories, however, the one that I find most credible is that the words “yada, yada” are American in origin and emerged during or just after the Second World War. The words were preceded by various alternative forms – “ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta,” or “yaddega, yaddega.” I offer as my proof, a song that reached popularity, not in the 1990s, not even in 1947, but in 1945. The song is entitled Ya-Ta-Ta, Ya-Ta-Ta (Talk, Talk, Talk), written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke and was made popular by two recordings: by Judy Garland and Bing Crosby and by Harry James and his Orchestra, with Kitty Kallen handling the vocals.
The Crosby-Garland version of the song is a dialogue between the two. Each, in answer to a question, goes on and on and on and on – until the other says that the only way to stop the incessant talking is to kiss the other person. (Try getting away with that today. But, remember, this was 1945 and things were different, or at least more innocent, then.)
The Harry James version is certainly a nice enough version, but because it is a solo version, it lacks the bantering between the two principals and therefore is not as much fun as the Crosby-Garland rendering.
Here are the lyrics as performed by Garland and Crosby:
Crosby: Love your skimmer Judy, where did you grab it?
Garland: My hat?
Oh Bing, how nice of you to ask me that.
Because there’s a very interesting story
connected with this hat, there really is.
I was walking down the street the other day,
ran into Mllicent Palmer, you know Millicent Palmer,
a very dear friend of mine.
Crosby: How do I get involved?
Garland: Well we walked around the corner for what passes
for a millinery shop and she looked in the window and
saw my hat and said, “that is for you”
I went in, the saleslady put it on my head and I
thought it was a little matronly
Garland: oh… now … wait, no wait
When I got my arm around you and we’re going for a walk
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, talk, talk, talk
When we’re sitting close together in a cozy taxi cab
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, gab, gab, gab
Aristotle, mathematics, economics, antique chairs
The classics, the comics, darling, who cares?
There’s a brand new moon this evening and the weather should be fine
If you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, same old line
I’ll politely close your lips with mine
Garland: How’s your golf Bing?
Crosby: My golf? Ho-ho I’m really moving that ball out there, striking it a ton.
I had a sixty-nine Sunday, should have been a sixty-five.
Terrific wind blowing, couldn’t drop a single putt, it was murder
Garland: Oh, I lost my head with this question
Crosby: …and of course the equipment, you just can’t get any golf balls anymore
the actors are hoarding them all…and the caddies, huh, they want an
annuity for eighteen holes. You’ve got to take an option on one to be sure
he’ll show up.
Garland: When the parlor lights are lowered and the family isn’t in
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, chin, chin, chin
When there’s music softly playing and I’m sitting on your lap
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, yap, yap, yap
Forward passes, second baggers, or a jockey who is hot.
Or boxing, or hockey, darling, so what?
Crosby: I’ll attempt some other evening.
Garland: Well you can call for me at nine
But if you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, same old line
Garland: What do you mean the same old line?
Crosby: Same line
Garland: You asked me about my hat,
You’ve been standing there for an hour and a half talking your big fat head off
Crosby: I thought….
Crosby: ….about golf
Crosby: I just….
Garland: You didn’t even let me finish my story….
Crosby: I told you what I would do
Garland: Oh darling, let me finish
Crosby: Steady, steady
Crosby and Garland: It’s so nice to close your lips with mine.
THE CHARTED SONGS
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Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, Joseph Lilley and his Orchestra Yah-Ta-Ta
Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Kitty Kallen Ya-Ta-Ta