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Can anyone explain the expression やれやれだ/やれやれだぜ ? I saw it in a written journal entry to mean "Thank heavens!", and on further investigation have seen it translated as "Good god!" as well as "Sigh." It's probably an outdated expression, but could someone tell me if it's still used and why it means what it means?

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It has two different uses but I am unclear on one so I make this a comment. The first that you know is an expression of disappointment eg やれやれ,またか(Oh no! Not again!) the second is defined as admiration (感嘆)but it seems closer to "hurrah" as in your journal or やれやれ、やっと終わった (Hurrah! we've finally finished)and most cases I've found, the exception being やれやれ,うらやましいことだね (Oh, how lucky you are!). –  Tim Nov 24 '12 at 4:55
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1 Answer

やれやれ is an interjection ([感動詞]{かんどうし}) that is a doubling of the やれ interjection.

The main uses are:

  1. When feeling relieved or deeply moved:
    やれやれ、やっと仕事が終わった。
    At least I have finished work.
    やれやれ、可哀想に。
    What a pity.
  2. When faced to a nuisance or deceived:
    やれやれ、また残業か。
    Overwork again...
    やれやれ、困ったな。
    It's bothering.

And from my personal experience, it is not that outdated but indeed more used by adults than by teenagers.

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thank you. Do you have any idea as to the grammatical origin or structure? Is it related to the verb やる? –  yadokari Nov 24 '12 at 5:47
    
The best I found is this. The やれ interrogation (eg: やれ、誰それ) seems to be the original use and then it evolved to やれやれ as an interjection. –  Eric Nov 24 '12 at 6:47
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