Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y Not Yodel?


I’ve always been curious about yodeling. Is it music? Is it gibberish? Could we not ask the same questions about hip-hop?

A Wikipedia article on yodeling states, “The earliest record of a yodel is in 1545, where it is described as "the call of a cowherd from Appenzell"". Yeah, a crazy cowherd.

Further reading reveals that yodeling may be a “method of communication between herders and their stock" and that “The calls may also have been endearments shepherds used to express affection to their herds.”

We can conclude from this information that those old-time Swiss yodelers were a lonesome bunch. And the rarefied air of the mountains likely didn’t help their mental faculties much.

The great Oscar Hammerstein was aware of this when he wrote these lyrics:

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Folks in a town that was quite remote heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Lusty and clear from the goatherd’s throat heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Note that the goatherd is described as lonely. Note as well the use of the word lusty, meaning lustful or lecherous in this context.

Yodel-odel-lay-HEE-hoooooo may sound like vocal nonsense, but my guess (given the information provided by Wikipedia) is that a rough translation of this utterance would be:

Yo, I love your crazEE hoooooves!
Oh, a goat’ll make MEE swooooon!

However, I could be way off-base. These Swiss serenaders may have just been hungry. They may have been calling to someone down below to bring them a tasty snack.

I do believe that yodeling can be done by anyone and anywhere. Give it a try!

If you wanted to insult someone, you could yodel,
You’re a loafin’ lazY gooooof!

At your next yoga class, you might want to try,
Yoga, lotus, crane, HALF-moooooon!

If you should find yourself at a Star Wars convention, you might have the urge to yodel,
Obi-Wan KenoBI tooooooo!

Yodeling doesn't always have to sound like that. Calling out something like Ri-co-laaaa will do. Surely you’ve seen those Ricola throat lozenge ads with the two Swiss dudes standing on a mountain; one blowing an Alphorn while the other pitches the product.

This may be a common sight in Switzerland, but I think anyone in British Columbia would draw a few strange looks if they were to stand at Hells Gate and — with the accompaniment of a vuvuzela — yell into the valley “Halls with Mentho-Lyptuuuuuus!

Come to think of it, maybe the original yodelers were just trying to clear their throats. Ri co la may be Swiss for “Fetch me a #^*@$* lozenge!" But they wouldn’t have had any decent throat pastilles back then. With the harsh Alpine air and all that goat and sheep hair flying around, a hearty Yodel lodel lay HEE hooooo could be effective in clearing out the throat, lungs and sinuses. In fact, I’m going to give that a try the next time I’m down with a cold.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go outside, climb up a ladder, and shout this final yodel from the rooftop:

This yodel ode’ll take ME tooooooo
my final entry — nameLY, ZOOOOOO!


  1. Who knew that yodeling could be humorous! Nice post. Now I want to go climb a mountain and yell "Reeeee-co-laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa." Just for the hell of it.

    1. Just be aware that a Swiss goatherd might bring you a throat lozenge.