Two “ays,” “Aye Aye,” is a Yes sir, yes ma’am.
But three “ays” — Ay ay ay!
Here’s the scene. Last week Top Chef whisked its final three candidates to the Yucatan for their Quickfire Challenge. There they learned that their Quickfire dish was to feature the habanero — fruity, citrusy, and spicy, according to the show’s host, Padma Lakshmi. “If you think it’s hot outside,” she said, “this ingredient is going to make you sweat.”
Chef Roberto Muñoz Zurita, who is local, explained that the habanero pepper was domesticated and has been used in Mexico for the past 8,500 years. Lakshmi added that “the habanero is 140 times hotter than your typical jalapeno.”
“Ay ay ay,” said Brooke Williamson, the contestant who subsequently won the challenge.
Here’s another scene, a tweet from then-candidate Donald Trump, back in March 2016. On Twitter, his wife, Melania posted, “My husband loves women this is true.”
“who got her out of the house?! @clewondowski” asked Trump, to which then-campaign manager Corey Lewondowski replied, “Wasn’t me, Mr. Trump, sir!”
“Ay ay ay,” wrote Trump. “I hire the dopiest thugs! @clewondowski_ GET HER BACK!”
If you go looking for “ay ay ay,” you’ll find lots of evidence that it has Spanish influence, if not Spanish origin. Urban Dictionary has a 2004 definition, approved 216 votes to 48, calling it a “Spanish paralinguistic feature of communication. Employed when no words are capable of conveying the frustration, anger, or general absurdity of the situation.”
And there are songs like “AyAyAy!” half in Spanish, half in English, by the Mexican-American hip-hop singer known professionally as Snow Tha Product. Its refrain begins, “Look, I swear to God, the life I live, has got my mom, like, Ay Ay Ay.”
For what it’s worth, there’s a Los Angeles clothing store that calls itself AyAyAy.
True, The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the monosyllabic Ay has been around in English since the time of Chaucer some 600 years ago, when one of the conspirators in the Pardoner’s Tale said: “Ey, Goddis precious dignite!”
But it’s not just one syllable now, when the occasion is sufficiently astonishing. Ayayay!
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