Where is “yonder”?

The question of the day is just where is “yonder”? Or should the question be how far away is “yonder”? Or maybe it’s what the hell is a “yonder”?

If you already know the answer, you’re a card-carrying Southerner but you should still read on for fun. If you don’t know the answer, today’s your lucky day because I’m fixin’ to talk all about it. And yes, I just said “fixin'”. If you don’t say “yonder”, you probably don’t say “fixin'” either, do you?

A word like “yonder” might seem antiquated to you. After all, some of you have probably only heard it in your high school English class when Shakespeare’s Romeo muses, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” But “yonder” didn’t die along with the Bard. In fact, it’s still alive and kicking below the Mason-Dixon line.

Before we define “yonder,” let’s take a look at how this most wonderful of Southern words might be used in a sentence. In a conversation about a place, either near or some distance away, you might say something like this:

Where do your Mama and ‘em stay at?

Oh, they stay down yonder in Mawmaw’s old house by the old pecan orchard.

Or it might be used to indicate direction:

I think we’re lost. Whichaway should we go?

I say we head over yonder way. I think I hear the road.

We should note here that “yonder” is often partnered with “down” or “over” or “up.” And it can also be used to describe where a thing is. You can say:

You see that deer? It’s right yonder through them trees.

Or a little different, but generally the same:

Where’s my rake?

Yonder it lays.

And because it’s relatively vague, “yonder” is also a good way to respond to a question when you don’t really know the answer or want to say what it is.

Where’s Betty Lou?

Well I can’t hardly say, Junior. I think she walked over yonder with Coy, but I’m still right here…

And if you’re unsure of where exactly “yonder” is, it’s usually accompanied by a telltale point or nod or glance in the general direction. That’s about as close as you’ll get to accuracy. The beauty of “yonder” is in its vague specificity.

If you get right down where the goats eat, “yonder” is nothing but a way to say “over there.” Now, “over there” could be ten inches away, ten feet away, or ten miles away, but it generally means that there exists a distance that’s not too terribly great from wherever you are to wherever the thing or person in question is. Unless, of course, your “yonder” is combined with “wild” and “blue” in which case the distance is very, very great.

And speaking of the “wild blue yonder” reminds me of heaven. Which reminds me of Carole King singing “Way Over Yonder.” If you want to get a little church in you, take a listen to this.

Yonder yonder yonder yonder yonder. It’s a funny word if you say it a whole bunch of times real fast. And it’s a general direction. And it’s a heavenly resting place. Not too bad for one little ole word.

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