Yin Yang is the Chinese philosophy of Light and Shadow, often signifying the need for balance or that everything exists in balance.

But the (reasonably enjoyable to use) phrase

Up the Ying Yang


Out the Ying Yang

Doesn’t really make sense in this context (and it seems the spelling in the phrase has changed too) as it means to do something in the extreme, or to have a profusion of something. It sounds like it should be referring to a long river that someone has to travel up, connoting an extreme of something.

I can’t find an online etymology of this even after Googling and looking on Wiktionary amongst other online dictionaries, only a few ‘discussion’ here and poor explanation here.

Where did this phrase come from? Am I using it right?

  • Is this question unlikely to help any future visitors, only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet?
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:14
  • 4
    @Kris In a word, no, it is not such.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:28
  • Pureferret, you may now like to rethink the title.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:32
  • 2
    @Kris actually, I still quite like it. Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


Um, your yin(g)-yang is a minced oath for one or another excretory orifice. So yes, you are using it “right”, although I would myself set it in lowercase, and possibly hyphenate it or fuse into a single word: ying-yang, yingyang.

It is similar to — really, equivalent to — up the wazoo, or any number of similar “nonsense” terms for the unmentionable parts. The somewhat reduplicative yingyang also gets used for the same thing that other reduplicatives like dingdong, dingaling, dongalong, pangwang, willydilly, wangerdanger, wangadoodle, and hoohoodilly all also do, and is similar in construction. (Ramalamadingdong may or may not be related.) Sometimes those have hyphens, and sometimes they don’t.

Here is one reasonably citable reference:

Take a term rendered in a foreign language, let’s say “yin and yang.” Have people start mispronouncing (and misspelling) it as “ying and yang,” bring in a slang term for what polite people call the buttocks—“she’s got talent out the ying-yang,” add a rap group called the Ying-Yang Twins, and pretty soon more people will think that “ying” is correct.


Not so “wazoo,” another reference to one’s posterior. As with “ying-yang,” the phrase “out the wazoo” means an abundance. One can also claim that something is a “pain in the wazoo,” and even people who don’t know what a “wazoo” is will understand.

Here, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary weighs in. While it professes not to know the origin of “wazoo”, it says that others suspect it may come from the French oiseau, or bird, through a Louisiana Creole term, “razoo”, for raspberry. (Those with particularly fertile dirty minds may be able to make the connection.) It’s almost exclusively American.

These are North American slang terms, which is probably why they seem “foreign” to you if you are in the UK.

  • 1
    @Pureferret I can confirm that "out the yinyang" was already current in East Alabama in the early 1960s in exactly this sense. Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:43
  • 1
    Excelsior! But are there any etymologies for ying-yang, like your one for wazoo? Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 14:56
  • 4
    @Pureferret I fear that deep analysis of such schlong-words as yinyang, dingdong, wangadoodle, or hoohoodilly are sadly lacking in the professional literature.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 15:38
  • 1
    @StoneyB: A quick shufti at Google Books suggests "out/up the yingyang" was only just getting started in the 60s. Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 16:40
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: "shufti"? Is that an acronym, or a secret cabalistic handshake that gets you in to the back room?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 18:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.