Young Money rapper Drake is receiving a history lesson on his popular catchphrase “YOLO (You Only Live Once)” with new reports showing how far back the term actually goes.
According to a piece in the New York Post‘s entertainment section, YOLO goes back to the 1700’s.
Drake, you need to calm down. You didn’t trademark YOLO. In fact, you weren’t even the first person to say it! The U.S. Trademark database actually shows several earlier attempts to use YOLO commercially. A company selling T-shirts, tank tops, hats, and sweatshirts filed an application in 1993 to obtain a trademark for YOLO. That filing was abandoned a year later, but other companies filed for trademarks or service marks incorporating YOLO and “You Only Live Once” for products like artificial suntanning, sportswear, and driver safety pamphlets, among others. But the acronym and the meaning behind it actually has a long history before the ’90s, dating all the way back to the 1700s, meaning no one alive today can claim the blame credit for it. While the exact wording changes a bit (with some incarnations employing “we” instead of “you,” or rearranging the order of the words themselves), the meaning is the same throughout history. Let’s take a look back at all the instances we could find of YOLO throughout the years. (NY Post)
Not just a chance occurrence, the term also sprouted up in the 1800’s and 1900’s.
In February of 1837, YOLO turned up in a story published in The Lady’s Magazine and Museum urging readers to behave cautiously to avoid contracting a deadly disease: “Due respect for your prayer, my worthy master; but my principle is, the further from the danger the safer. We only live once; and life itself is so burdensome, and full of care, that it cannot at all be pleasant to be carried out of this world by such a naughty and ugly conveyance as this cholera.” Once again, “we” is used instead of “you,” but the meaning is the same. In 1937, the film noir You Only Live Once was released, directed by Fritz Lang starring Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney. (NY Post)
Earlier this week, Drizzy publicly called out a few retailers for slapping a price tag on YOLO-based merchandise.
It’s true — you only do live once, and in this lifetime, Drake wants a check for all that YOLO merchandise. The Canadian teardrop shed the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve in favor of a capitalist one, uploading two photos to Instagram of YOLO clothing and demanding that someone cut him a check. The photos were taken in a Walgreens and a Macy’s, meaning that Drake is either a cheap and lazy Christmas shopper like the rest of us or he has a roving team of YOLO spies policing drug and department stores across the country (stop snitching!). (Gawker)
Last month, reports surfaced which claimed “YOLO” missed out on earning the title of “Word of the Year.”
Each year Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing and chooses a word that best reflects the mood of the year. The publisher typically chooses separate British and American winners. This year’s American champion is “gif,” short for graphics interchange format, a common format for images on the Internet. Europe’s financial crisis lent the shortlisted word “Eurogeddon,” while technology produced “second screening” — watching TV while simultaneously using a computer, phone or tablet — and social media popularized the acronym “YOLO,” you only live once. (The Star)