The April 24, 1997 episode of the Seinfeld Show was titled the Yada, Yada. Neither Jerry Seinfeld nor the show’s writers coined the phrase “yada, yada.” It was already in use. But after being included on the show, the expression skyrocketed in popularity, and is still used by a lot of people.
There’s some debate about the origin of the phrase. Some say it’s from the English expression yatter, while others say it comes from the Norwegian jada, which is pronounced the same and means the same as yada. Other sources say it comes from Yiddish or Hebrew. In any case, it usually means the same as blah, blah, blah, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Instead of reciting the boring details of a story, you say yada, yada, yada instead.
When you watch the Yada, Yada episode, however, it’s quite obvious from the way the characters tell their stories that there’s a sexual connotation and an intentional double meaning going on. Apparently, there is some evidence that yada is, indeed, a euphemism for sex. If so, when the Seinfeld cast says yada, yada, yada in those stories, what they’re really saying is sex, sex, sex. Watch it on YouTube and see if it seems that way to you.
Because people are sometimes shy about discussing sex, we often use euphemisms when talking about it. Some of those expressions are making love, going all the way, doing it, hanky-panky, and hitting a home run. My sister and her husband use the phrase twice around the park when referring sex. My wife and I use a different term.
Our teen-aged son never wanted to talk when we wanted to; he always waited ‘til late at night. When we were way past ready to go to bed . . . that’s when he was just coming alive and wanted to talk. One night he asked, “Hey guys. Wha’d you do on your honeymoon?” I have no idea what brought that question to his mind, or what he expected us to say.
There’s a lot of things we did on our honeymoon, but the one that came to mind was, “Well, Son. We played backgammon. Someone gave us a backgammon game as a wedding gift, and we took it with us. We stopped at a store and bought some instructions, and learned to play the game while on our honeymoon.”
“Oh. Okay.” Apparently, that satisfied his curiosity for the time being.
Two weeks later, we were in our bedroom with the door closed, but still fully clothed, playing backgammon on the bed, when there was a knock on the bedroom door. Same son wanted to talk.
“Dad, can we talk about something?”
“Sure, Son. Come on in.”
When he opened the door and saw us on the bed, his jaw dropped, eyes opened wide. “Oh my gosh! You really do play backgammon!”
“What did you think I meant?”
“Uh . . . I thought you made it up ’cause you didn’t want to talk about what you really did on your honeymoon!”
“Oh! Well, we really did play backgammon.”
“Oh. My. Gosh.”
Ever since that conversation, “backgammon” has been a euphemism for sex in our family. “So that’s what you did on your honeymoon, heh heh.”
Yada = Knowing
When Genesis 4:1 says Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, the word translated as intimate is the Hebrew word yada. The Hebrew Bible, called the Tanach, from the Jewish Publication Society translates this verse, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word knew has a footnote that says, Heb. yada, often in a sexual sense. Following the Jewish understanding of yada in this context, many English translations of Genesis 4:1 keep the idea to know. The word means to “know intimately, to know completely, to be familiar.” No wonder one of its additional meanings is to know sexually.
Other translations render the verse as follows. These are all appropriate ways to translate Genesis 4:1, where it says in Hebrew, Adam yada’d his wife.
- Adam and Eve had a son.
- The man knew his wife.
- Adam had sexual intercourse with his wife.
- Adam slept with his wife.
- Adam had relations with his wife.
- Adam made love to his wife.
One of John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is what he calls Love Maps. Couples with a strong, resilient marriage not only know each other, they know a lot about each other. “From knowledge springs not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better equipped to cope with stressful events and conflict.”
I met Dr. Gottman when he spoke at a college in Orlando a few years ago. During a private conversation about love maps, he said it’s not an accident that the word know is used for sexual intimacy in Genesis 4:1. Knowing each other is crucial to maintaining a satisfying love life.
4 Replies to “Yada, Yada, Yada”
Not sure I’ll ever be able to use that phrase again without giggling like a school girl Mr. Paul. Great lesson though. Truly knowing God is an intimate and personal thing.
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Hi J.D. Knowing the Lord intimately truly is what life is all about, isn’t it? But it’s OK to giggle once in a while. 🙂
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Vernacular like Yada, yada is interesting. You have to hand it (oops) to Seinfeld, to use Yada-yada in that context, in his sitcom. It’s brilliant.
Growing up in NYC, it never had that connotation for me. The saying morphed and translated differently. When You say it slower Yadah-Yadah and you shake your head side to side it inferred “boring.” As a child that’s all I thought it meant, boring.
Adding the biblical meaning you gave me, I get it now. Someone might ask, ”How’d-it-go,” if it was asked in terms of intimacy; if the sex was boring you’d say “Yadah-Yadah” while shaking your head. I never thought of it as boring sex, just boring.
My wife and I developed the term towel-time (have to protect sheets). Backgammon is interesting as well.
Knowing my wife intimately gives me a clear knowledge that is she is with me and I’m with her. It erases all doubt that comes with trouble, conflict and stressful events. We are never as close to each other when we are Yadaing.
Married couples need to Yada more, However, work, stress, conflict and stressful events often get in the way. I’d say, that’s the work of the devil and our own mistakes. I have an idea print a T-shirts that say,, “Let’s Yada”, “Yada More” or “Just Yada” or “Yada-Yada All Night Long”.
Great article Paul! Thanks
I think intimacy with God begins with asking God into my life., with the daily repentance of my sins, with daily worship, with praise, with being thankful.
Thanks again Paul!
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Thanks for such a thoughtful reply, Charles. Awesome!
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