My Barbaric Yawp


This week’s word is yawp (pronunciation here) which is defined as a raucous noise. I imagine it as the sound many parents are making around now as their offspring wander back towards education. Yawp’s first known use was in the 14th century (yes, they were loud back then too) and it comes from the Middle English word yolpen.
I have loved this word since encountering it the movie “Dead Poet’s Society”. Watching it as an English-loving teen with protective parents and attending a single gender, rule-bound school it was probably inevitable that I would be inspired. Add in great direction, the amazing Robin Williams, and a bunch of good-looking teenage boys and my fate was sealed.

I have so much to thank that film for. I already enjoyed poetry but it introduced me to Walt Whitman. His work is not well known in Ireland so I searched out some of his books (this was before Amazon, so it did take some searching) and adored their wildness and passion. I already loved Russian classical music but had never heard Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (the European Union’s anthem) which is still one of my favourite pieces of music. In fact Ukrainian musicans and singers recently staged a flash mob of the piece to promote peace in their country and they did it in the middle of the fish market – I think Mr. Keating would approve.
The film, and particularly the story of Todd Andersen, the shy boy with poetry in his soul who overcomes his fears to say that desk-topping farewell to his inspirational English teacher, showed me that a chronically shy girl who wrote novels in hidden notebooks and never mentioned her love of writing to her parents could reach for the stars.
“I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world”
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from “Leaves of Grass”
In the aftermath of Robin Williams tragic death, which the whole world mourned, I caught a screening of DPS and it reminded me of all the reasons I loved his acting and the film. Amongst those teenage boys, my husband was amazed to recognise House’s best friend Dr. Wilson in the young actor-wannabe Neil. That one I knew, but I was amused to find Josh Charles (who played the rebellious “Nuwanda” in DPS) playing Will Gardiner, a lawyer, in “The Good Wife” the next evening. So those two prep-school boys ended up as lawyers and doctors despite all their DPS rebellions.

Rest in Peace, Robin.

Oh Captain, my Captain.
Until next time happy reading, writing, wordfooling and don’t forget to yawp at least once a day,
p.s. I’m happy to announce that this blog has made it through to the shortlist in the Arts & Culture category of Blog Awards Ireland 2014. You can find the shortlist here. There’s some great blogging going on, check it out.

1 thought on “My Barbaric Yawp

  1. Pingback: The History of the Word Barber and their Poles | Wordfoolery

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