The phrase that"s spoken when someone is hand-wringing about a thorny problem.

Speaker One: Uh-oh -- we have to reformat ALL THE DOCUMENTS!

Speaker Two: Aye Yai Yai, that"s a lot of work!

"Aye Yai Yai" is the closest I can come with orthography, but I"m not sure if there"s a more standard representation.

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In the South African context the meaning is more an expression that encapsulates the idea of things going wildly amok (out of control) or hapless frustration. reference "The Gods must be Crazy."
“Ay-ay-ay” is an exclamation which entered American pop culture from Mexican Spanish in various ways. In informal conversation, the phrase means literally “oh, oh, oh” and conveys a sense of dismay.

For example, in 1882, the popular song “Cielito Lindo” included this phrase in the chorus. This song was sung by drunk mice in a Warner Brothers cartoon featuring Speedy Gonzales aired since the 1950s. It was also sung by the mascot of Fritos corn chips, the Frito Bandito, in a popular television commercial aired from 1967 to 1971. (Both characters, incidentally, were voiced by voice actor Mel Blanc.)

Closely related in sound is the exclamation known as the “Grito Mexicano” or “Mexican Cry”. 


In the show Power Rangers, one character had this as a catchphrase; it was commonly spelled "Ai yi yi", as evidenced here, though alternatives included:

aye yai yaiaye yi yiayiyiay ay ayaye aye ayei-i-i

I would go with "Ay, ay, ay" as the spelling, because it comes directly from Spanish.

interj. U. para expresar muchos y muy diversos movimientos del ánimo, y más ordinariamente aflicción o dolor.
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