When I visited St. Olaf College last week, I wanted to find out what the expression "Um! Yah! Yah!" meant.
No luck. The folks I spoke to really didn't know.
Then I found the 2005 St. Olaf magazine article above on the Web.
The rouser, it turns out, is actually based upon the old St. Olaf Faculty Hymn. ... When you read the refrain(s), which apparently neither the faculty nor anyone else could commit to memory, you will immediately understand why the original words were replaced by the easier-to-remember, albeit somewhat ridiculous, nonsense phrase “um yah yah.”
Before you keep reading ...
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So "Um! Yah! Yah!" is supposed to replace the tongue-twisting refrains in bold below:
Gulbrandson, Narveson, Huggenvik, Ellingson,
Amundson, Klaragard, Halvorson, Roe.
Fredrickson, Rasmussen, Tollefsrud, Peterson,
Skogerboe, Faillettaz, Jorgenson, Boe.
Christensen, Sheveland, Gustafson, Maakestad,
Lokensgaard, Skurdalsvold, Wrigglesworth, Ross.
Rovelstad, Jacobson, Lutterman, Otterness,
Erickson, Gunderson, Iverson, Foss.
Thormodsgard, Bieberdorf, Overby, Gimmestad,
Kittelsby, Ytterboe, Hinderlie, Njus.
Ditmanson, Odegaard, Hilleboe, Anderson,
Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, Muus!
Yeah, I can see why they did that.
Still doesn't explain the choice of "Um! Yah! Yah!" as the replacement, though.
Must have been the times.