Dot Wordsworth

Yeah

This yeah comments approvingly on what the speaker himself has just said

My husband has an irritating habit of holding his hymn book open at the right page but obviously not referring to the text as he belts out carols.

He is perfectly happy growling, in what he thinks a light baritone, the Latin version of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’, even the fourth verse, beginning: ‘Ergo qui natus die hodierna.’

I’m not saying he’s wrong to apply his sticky brain cells to the Latin version, for that was the one first written down in 1750 by the scholar John Wade, a reviver of plainchant. If you ask me, Wade was the author of the words. His manuscripts, with his own illuminations, included lyrics of many an ancient hymn, such as the Eastertide ‘Vexilla Regis’. We know the authors of those, or at least their origins, but ‘Adeste Fideles’ is unknown before Wade’s penning of a manuscript kept at Glasgow University entitled, unpromisingly, Modus intonandi gloria patri.

That line ‘Ergo qui natus die hodierna’ in English is: ‘Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning’. It is right not to render ergo, less than idiomatically, as ‘therefore’. The people they interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, would probably make it ‘So…’, for that is how all experts begin now.

But my word of the year is not so, or Brexit or post-truth, but yeah, the same word as Wade’s yea, if pronounced differently. It is, in its new sense, used in a peculiar way.

As heard on the wireless, this is its context: an interviewer will ask someone to explain how they felt about getting a medal, and the answer will range over immediate emotions then ramble round the exacting daily training and the part played by the athlete’s mum, then suddenly the interviewee will say ‘Yeah’, as though he had been asked a question we at home cannot hear.

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