Wahoos For yahoos?
In a retail store along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I recently picked up a free fishing magazine. It’s called Coastal Angler. I’m not much of an angler myself. More of a dabbler. Perhaps, in the land of contraction-based words, that makes me a dangler? So many questions. Anyway…
The headline on the cover is, “WINTERTIME WAHOO.” The cover photo shows a small, lean and happy woman hoisting an enormous, lean and unhappy fish. I was looking at this photo and wondering for perhaps the umpteenth time (where did we get that number, anyway?) how did the wahoo get its name?
With you in mind, dear reader, this seemed like a good time to solve such a mystery. I went to everyone’s favorite source of demystification, Google. (Google’s name is a purposeful misspelling of the word “googol,” in case you’re interested. Where better to wonder about wahoo than Google standing in for googol? And unlike umpteen, googol actually is a defined number--a one followed by 100 zeroes. But I digress…)
The word “wahoo” has many meanings. But the origin of the fish’s name was listed as “unknown.” That said, wahoo is also listed as a synonym for “yahoo.” Yahoo is defined as either an exclamation of great joy or a person who is rude and violent, as in “Every Sunday, this fishing spot is all wahoo for yahoos and it gets ugly.” (Interestingly, Yahoo was a favored search engine for a time before the yahoos over at the misspelled googol usurped their position of hierarchy. Wahoo for them!)
After also failing at etymology from a formal resource (namely, an actual dictionary like Merriam-Webster, who merely defines the fish as “a large, vigorous mackerel), I defaulted to the next best resource for all things large, vigorous and etymological, the Hawaii Seafood Council. Who better to ask about the etymology of the word wahoo than the people who call wahoo by the word “ono.” As in, “Ono, some yahoo is asking about wahoo again.”
If you care, the word ono is Hawaiian and means “good to eat.” As in, “Ono? Oh yeah! Yahoo, we’re having wahoo again!” But the early European explorers responsible for calling the fish by the name “wahoo” were not hip to the jive in Hawaii. But they did recognize that ono were plentiful off the island of Oahu. (Ono, see where this is going?) A common spelling of Oahu on early maps was (yes) “Wahoo.” And in a nutshell, there’s your folk etymology in action.
Ono is very big at sushi restaurants. It is prized. I’ve never heard it called by the name wahoo, probably because of branding problems. Who wants to mortgage the house for two slivers of wahoo? It sounds like a kid’s party favor. Or a service one might acquire from a professional woman. "Hey, baby, how much for wahoo all night long?" Ick.
But now that I know about the etymology, I will begin asking my sushi chef if he has any large, vigorous mackerel. If he says yes, I will exclaim, “Yahoo!” as I order my wahoo and hope that I am not mistaken for a vigorous and violent dangler.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.