More About Wahoos

Just when I thought I had provided the best explanation I had heard about the origin of the term Wahoo, a Tar Pit poster late Friday put me onto something that has opened up a whole new can of worms. He posted and provided a link to a web site that consists solely of Dartmouth College oriented material and called everyone's attention to the article entitled "Wah-Hoo-Wah at UVA. I had some difficulty in downloading the information but a plaintiff cry for help from Tar Pit posters soon yielded results. Someone e-mailed me the material within 30 minutes of my plea for assistance. I have since learned that, at least, part of my problem was the length of the material on the site. I am told by someone who uses a computer ( I use Web TV ) that the Dartmouth material was 53 pages in length.

But here I go wandering again. Let's get down to what the Dartmouth article said about Wahoos.

According to the Dartmouth article, the Wah-Hoo-Wah yell was a invention of Daniel Rollins '79 in 1878 and was intended to encourage college spirit. Professor Proctor assisted, and was apparently the one who proposed that the yell "should have an Indian flavor."

At UVA the yell had been picked up by the end of the century. The two schools were meeting in football by the 1890s but at Virginia, "Wah-Hoo-Wah has no such Indian connotation.

At UVA the yell is currently popularized in the "Good Old Song" which serves as the school's touchdown song and also functions as the Alma Mater to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. The words to the first stanza of the song are:

The Good Old Song of Wah-Hoo-Wah,

We'll sing it o'er and o'er;

It cheers our hearts and warms our blood

to hear them shout and roar.

We come from old Virginia where all is bright and gay;

Let's all join hands and give a yell for dear old U. V. A.

The UVA sports song page is quoted as saying that the origin of Wah-Hoo-Wah is uncertain. The cheer was used to root on Virginia teams as early as 1890 and may have been borrowed from Dartmouth College, where athletic teams were once known as the Indians. Legend attributes the yell to Natalie Floyd Otey who sang the ballad "Where'er You Are, There Shall My Love Be" at the Charlottesville Levy Opera House in 1893. The predominantly student audience noticed that Otey sang the first three words of the song between each of the stanzas and decided to join in the refrain. By evening's end, goes the legend, the crowd had corrupted "Where'er You Are" into Wah-Hoo-Wah.

The legend sounds plausible, according to the Virginia Songs site, since the students were probably already yelling Wah-Hoo-Wah before they heard Natalie sing. Note is made of a book reference to Wah-Hoo-Wah in 1904 and another in 1915. Strangely the yell was copyrighted in 1935 by an individual. The Wah-Hoo-Wah yell is today more commonly heard in the form of a nickname for UVA students; "Wahoos" or just "Hoos." Many students now (1995) believe that Wahoo simply refers to the fish.

So why is the yell not controversial at Virginia? Is it because people do not realize its origin? Does it sound close enough to the familiar "yahoo" or "yee haw" t remain innocuous?

Another reference is made to a line from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" that says, "looking down on all the Hoos in Hooville." Some UVA students feel this was based on the legend that Mr. Jefferson looked down at the University from Monticello.

RamFanatic note: So there you have it. What appeared several days ago to be a conclusive explanation of the origin of Wahoo has now been expanded to where choices are available. One poster said he has asked at least a dozen of his UVA friends about the origin of Wahoo and, without exception, they responded that they didn't know. One UVA grad who was asked said he thought it came from a sheet that was distributed at a UNC-UVA football game in the 1970s.