A WORD IN THE HAND: YEA
She loves you, yea, yeah, yay ... even though she abuses you
A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd
A business-writer friend of mine is distressed about the fate of yea. He wrote me this email: “People use ‘yay’ or nay now, instead of ‘yea’ or nay; in the same way they use free ‘reign’ instead of free ‘rein’ – a coincidence of meanings that allows it to persist and grow. Like a fungus.”
Apart from formal voting in a certain type of boardroom, the word “yea” is largely obsolete these days. It is pronounced “yay”, which is why people get confused, but it does not mean “yay”. It means correct, true, verily, yup, uh-huh, right, you got it.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” means “Indeed, I am in a dangerous place”. Replace yea with yay and you’re saying: “Oh goody gumdrops, the lights are all out at rush hour and there’s a storm.”..