What's up on the Internet: Yaka-wow!


Are you a breezy person who goes, "Yaka-wow!"? Maybe you already were, and just didn't know it. Alice Bell, science communication lecturer at Imperial College, London, explains:

The main reason we've all been saying yakawow is simply because it's a cool word. It should be used more. Try saying it yourself out loud – yakawow, yaka-wow. Doesn't it just make your mouth happy?

More specifically, yaka-wow is the accidental brainchild of British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield. In the UK, Greenfield is known for holding the rather controversial position that use of computers and video games irreparably damages children's brains—unless, of course, said children are using her computer games, in which case they will become smarter. You see the problem. Last Thursday, Greenfield gave an interview to the London Times, which led to this fabulous exchange:

She doesn't think computer games are life-threatening, like smoking, but she says that they are as much of a risk to mankind as climate change. […] She is concerned that those who live only in the present, online, don't allow their malleable brains to develop properly. "It's not going to destroy the planet but is it going to be a planet worth living in if you have a load of breezy people who go around saying yaka-wow. Is that the society we want?"

Within hours, yaka-wow had inspired a Twitter stream, poster, T-shirt and burgeoning personal philosophy. But why yaka-wow? Bell says it's probably a fortuitous typo:

As it turns out, Greenfield wasn't just making up an odd phrase. It seems to be a transcription error of "yuck and wow", a phrase Greenfield has often used to describe the way people act online, running quickly from one sensation to another. Greenfield famously refereed to the banality of twitter as, "Marginally reminiscent of a small child saying, 'Look at me, look at me mummy! Now I've put my sock on. Now I've got my other sock on.'"

Naturally, that quote inspired mathematician Matt Parker to thoroughly wow the web by pulling both his socks on at the same time.

Image courtesy the brilliant mind of Adam Rutherford.