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Well, the much newer FQUERY function (the generalization of y-or-n-p and
yes-or-no-p) does take FORMAT-like arguments (hence its name).  I agree
that format-like arguments are a nice thing, and it seems that if
y-or-n-p were designed today it would work that way.  If we wanted to
change it incompatibly, we could have a phase-over period (possibly an
infinite one) in which the existing arg order worked; I think that the
two formats are sufficiently non-overlapping to make this work.  What do
other Lisp Machine people think?