Where did that inane St. Olaf phrase come from?

When I visited St. Olaf College last week, I wanted to find out what the expression “Um! Yah! Yah!” meant.

No luck. The folks I spoke to really didn’t know.

Then I found the 2005 St. Olaf magazine article above on the Web.

Its explanation:

The rouser, it turns out, is actually based upon the old St. Olaf Faculty Hymn. … When you read the refrain(s), which apparently neither the faculty nor anyone else could commit to memory, you will immediately understand why the original words were replaced by the easier-to-remember, albeit somewhat ridiculous, nonsense phrase “um yah yah.”

So “Um! Yah! Yah!” is supposed to replace the tongue-twisting refrains in bold below:

Gulbrandson, Narveson, Huggenvik, Ellingson,

Amundson, Klaragard, Halvorson, Roe.

Fredrickson, Rasmussen, Tollefsrud, Peterson,

Skogerboe, Faillettaz, Jorgenson, Boe.

Christensen, Sheveland, Gustafson, Maakestad,

Lokensgaard, Skurdalsvold, Wrigglesworth, Ross.

Rovelstad, Jacobson, Lutterman, Otterness,

Erickson, Gunderson, Iverson, Foss.

Thormodsgard, Bieberdorf, Overby, Gimmestad,

Kittelsby, Ytterboe, Hinderlie, Njus.

Ditmanson, Odegaard, Hilleboe, Anderson,

Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, Muus!

Yeah, I can see why they did that.

Still doesn’t explain the choice of “Um! Yah! Yah!” as the replacement, though.

Must have been the times.