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"Yo" is an English interjection,[1] nowadays commonly associated with American English slang. It was highly popularized after being commonly used among Italian Americans and African Americans in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

Common usage

Although often used as a greeting, yo is a slang term. Like the word "hey" or the Italian "ehi" (Ex. "Yo, how you doin'?", "Yo yo yo, what's up, dude?", "Yo homie"' "Yo, man. What's going on?") It may have a wide range of other, subtler meanings that depend on the tone, context, and situation. Two prominent examples include:

"Yo" has also come to be used as an exclamation, usually at the beginning, but occasionally at the end of a sentence, often to direct focus onto a particular individual or group or to gain the attention of another individual or group. (Ex: "Yo, I'm going to the store. Want anything?", "Yo, I'm leaving," "Yo, you coming with us?", ) Not only is it used to gain someone's attention, but it is also used as an exclamation of surprise, shock, or anger. (Ex: "Yo! What are you doing?", "Yo! You got a problem?") Much like the expressions "man" or "dude", "yo" is also used to emphasize or strengthen the meaning of a particular point (often with surprise.) (Ex: "It is a really hot day, yo", "Yo, it is a really hot day", "Yo, this is good!", "This is nasty, yo!"). "Yo", in all those cases, is usually received by the listener as if one's name was being called ("Yo, this is awesome!" being analogous to "John Doe, this is awesome!").

The Japanese language sentence-final particle "yo" has approximately the same meaning, but is etymologically unrelated. "YO" is often stated by teenagers doing symbols with their fingers to represent V= peace.

  • By using different tonalities, "Yo" can also be used by itself as an exclamation meaning "cool" and to indicate an exclamation of questioning, similar in meaning to "really?". "Yo" is also frequently combined with other slang, such as, "Yo what's up dawg?", meaning "hi, friend." Or "Yo, what up, bro?", meaning how's it going as a gesture of "hello".

Linguistically the term "yo" is used to signify informality, close cultural understanding, and to indicate communal bonding. It remains very popular among Philadelphia Italian Americans, possibly arising from the Italian language word io (meaning "I"). In Italian, first person statements are often proceeded by io, thus the "yo" at the beginning of sentences in Philadelphia may have evolved from this. There are various examples, however, of individuals of certain age groups adopting the use of "yo" as a greeting within their set. While this arrangement may have originated in inner-city areas and with persons of similar ethnic backgrounds, as the popularity of rap music and related culture spread, so did the usage of "yo". MTV's rap music show Yo! MTV Raps, also contributed to more widespread usage.

There are also reports of students in Baltimore consistently using yo as a gender-neutral pronoun.[2][3]

The use of "Yo" to substitute for a name is mentioned in Kerouac's On the Road as follows: I went to look for Carlo and Dean---nowhere to be found. Tim Gray shot his hand up in the air and said, "So you're leaving, Yo." We called each other Yo. "Yep," I said. The next few days I wandered around Denver.

Unrelated terms

In addition to the unrelated Japanese language sentence-final particle "yo", there are several other unrelated homophones or homographs of yo which have different meanings and etymologies.

  • In Northern Ireland, an elongated "Yo!" is used as a cheer.
  • In the Spanish language, the word for the first person personal pronoun I is "yo", but this is completely unrelated to the modern colloquial English morpheme yo. The Spanish pronoun "yo", the English pronoun "I" and others such as French "je", German "ich" and Latin "ego" all derive from a Proto-Indo-European pronoun .
  • In the Hungarian language, the homophone of "yo" (spelled "jó") means "good".
  • The English second person possessive pronoun your is often pronounced in truncated form, such as yo or ya. This usage has been popularized by the many "dozens" jokes and snaps that begin with "Yo momma...". These jokes have spread from the urban African American community and now relatively widespread throughout the English-speaking world, taking along this pronunciation of "your" with it.
  • In the Austrian and Swiss German dialects, the word "ja" (meaning yes) is commonly pronounced "yo".

In drug culture an Ecstacy pill is often referred to as a 'Yo'.[citation needed]


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