Yon Yonson

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"Yon Yonson" is an infinitely recursive poem, nursery rhyme or song, perhaps best known from the novel Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, although Vonnegut did not create it.

Origins of the song[edit]

The song is often sung in a Scandinavian accent (e.g. j pronounced as y, w pronounced as v). This accent is revealed by the name "Yon Yonson," which when recited in American English is usually rendered "Jan Jansen" or "John Johnson." The Swedish pronunciation "Yon Yonson" probably dates the origin of the song to soon after the Swedes' arrival in the United States.[1]

The earliest known appearance of the song has been credited to Jan Sophus Jansen (1870–1953).[2][3][4] Jan Jansen (pronounced "Yon Yonson") was born in Amager Denmark. At age 23 (1893), he immigrated to the United States. Jan settled in Berlin, Wisconsin, where he first worked in a lumberyard and later worked as a carpenter, cabinet maker, and wood pattern maker.[5] Jan was known to sing his namesake song while playing the concertina as he walked the streets of Berlin.

Another possible origin of the song is the Swedish play "Yon Yonson" (1899). The play's setting was a Minnesota lumber camp (Minnesota is a neighbor of Wisconsin). However, no evidence shows that the song was actually performed as part of the play.[6]

Lyrics[edit]

Numerous versions of the song exist, but all are similar to the following:

My name is Yon Yonson,
I come from Wisconsin.
I work in a lumber yard there.
Everyone that I meet
When I walk down the street,
Says "Hello! What's your name?"
And I say: My name is Yon Yonson... (repeated again and again).


Another version goes:

My name is Yon Yonson,
I come from Wisconsin
I work in a lumber mill there
All the people I meet
As I walk down the street
Ask me how in the hell I got there
So I tell them: My name is Yon Yonson...

Another version goes:

My name is Yon Yonson,
I come from Wisconsin
I work in a lumber mill there
All the people I meet
As I walk down the street
They say "Hello, Yon Yonson, hello"

Another version goes:

My name is Yon Yonson
I come from Wisconsin
I work in a lumber yard there, you see.
And the people I meet,
When I walk down the street.
Say 'Hello'.
And I say 'Hello'.
And they say 'What's your name'?
And I say..."Repeats"

Other occurrences of the song[edit]

  • The novel Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Chapter 1, paragraph 8
  • The Canadian band The Dave Howard Singers released an industrial/punk version of "Yon Yonson" in 1987.
  • The Children's Band Ralph's World released a version of this on their 2003 album Peggy's Pie Parlor. The lyrics have been changed slightly from what is quoted in this article.
  • The phrase was also used in a TV promotion ("Altered States") for Calvin Klein perfume.
  • In the video game Psychonauts, Sasha Nein will begin to recite this in an injury-induced daze if the battle with the mega-censor continues long enough.[citation needed]
  • The song has also appeared in numerous children’s song books
  • The computer game "Baldur's Gate II" has a gnome character who joins the player's party named Jan Jansen. He often bursts into very mundane stories about himself that never seem to end.
  • The song appears in the novel Coverup by Fawcett Juniper

Images[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]|Wisconsin in History
  2. ^ 1900 U.S. Census Report for Green Lake County, City of Berlin, Wisconsin
  3. ^ Riverside Cemetery records, Appleton, Wisconsin
  4. ^ Wisconsin State Board Of Health, Certificate of Death, Local Registrar’s no. 109
  5. ^ 1900 U.S. Census Report for Green Lake County, City of Berlin, Wisconsin
  6. ^ Vanished America (http://www.vanishedamericana.com/old-time-fun/yon-yonson-1899-stage-play-poster/)

External links[edit]