Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yeah No

You know those times when you don't really have a lot of time to think or to sit down and compose a weighty entry that will make people think. I was having one of those moments tonight and whilst listening to some footballers interviewed after a game this afternoon I was reminded of a phrase that has crept into the Australian language over the past couple of years.

Many people in responding to questions will commence their sentence with the words "Yeah No..."

Now I don't know about you but that seems a contradiction to me. I was thinking that maybe it was a contraction for "Yes I know..." but that often doesn't make any sense at all in the context of what people are saying.

So I thought I'd write a post about this queer turn of phrase and ask those of you who hail from across the water, and given Australia is an island, that could be anywhere, whether or not this is creeping into the English language everywhere.

Ahhh, an original theme for a post I hear you think. Yeah no actually it's not. When I googled the term I found 113,000,000 entries for the term "yeah no". That in itself is amazing, how is it that it's exactly 113,000,000 and not 113,000,001 or whatever.

At Language Hat the good professors of linguistics say the term is often used by bashful people to defuse a compliment. The Age, a major daily newspaper in my home town reported way back in 2004 that Monash University's chairwoman of linguistics, Kate Burridge, and colleague Margaret Florey, have written about yet another speech-junk development in "Yeah-no he's a good kid: A discourse analysis of yeah-no in Australian English". They call it a term of "verbal cuddling".

Finding out that was published in 2004 started the realisation that maybe this wasn't such an original post after all. And that was confirmed when I found reference to it in another blog, Cafe Mo, also dated 2004.

Then I thought I'd google "yeah no blog" and guess what - there is one which is however apparently temporarily suspended. And I also found another one with a post titled "No Yeah" which at least was written in September 2006.

So I apologise folks. I was trying to write a cute little original post and guess I failed on the original anyway, and I don't think I actually do cute very well either. Still at least the next person who does the search on google will click over the 113 million mark.

Yeah no though I'd still like to know if it's common elsewhere if you would be kind enough to let me know.


Finn said...

This is a new one on me! The closest thing we have in the U.S.(that I am aware of) is just, "Yeah" or "Um yeah."

I love stuff like this. Colloquialisms always make me smile!

HollyGL said...

Yeah, no I have no idea what your talking about.:) I have definitely heard that phrase. One that REALLY gets under my skin is, "I know, right?" Do they have that one down under? Ugh! Drives me crazy.

Blur Ting said...

No, we don't hear this being used around here. Lots of people like to end the sentence with "you know". They use it too much.

Arnold said...

Hi Loz I think what is common in the world today is people using words just to fill a gap. People hate the sound of silence these days. One day I will hear a footballer say " thats a good question I will come back to you with an answer when I have had time to think about it". Or maybe not.

Jeff said...

Can't say that I have heard it, thank God.

Bobby said...

Hi-bye. When I hear it I think it's use would mean "neutral" as it's yeah-no. It's neither. Next time a woman asks if I like her I'll say yeah-no give her a look as if I'm a passing stranger, turn and leave.
How are you? "Rage-happy."

See you later whats up?

Loz said...

Count yourselves lucky folks that you haven't heard it yet and I wonder if there will be some reverse cultural creep from Oz to US in particular.

tiffany said...

i've actually caught myself saying that a few times, but i never really thought about it until i read this. the dreaded statement seems to present itself (from my lips, at least) when involved in an at least somewhat drunken conversation, in which someone is trying to a) explain a complex (for drunken people) thought process, or b) ask me a question...then i say the 'yeah' to show that i am following, and then the 'no' to disagree. basically i think the 'yeah, no' thing is a new contraction. of sorts. 'i can not' once became 'i can't,' and now 'yes, i understand, but you've got something wrong' becomes 'yeah, no.'
of course, this only works (works in the loosest sense, of course) when one follows the 'yeah, no' statement by a lengthy explanation of some sort.
a 'yeah, no' cannot should not be expected to stand on it's own.

the thing that really bothers me is something i've been noticing lately, where people seem to think that 'yeah' is a squeal of excitement, like 'yay,' or 'hooray.'

it's not, right?

i really had no idea that i was just going to compose a novel in response to your post...i've been meaning to visit your site for a while, and this is the first time i've gotten around to it.

clearly, i enjoyed, thanks for that.

Loz said...

Congratulations Tiffany, youwin the prize for the longest ever comment on one of my blogs :)

Thanks for dropping by and how did you find me?

tiffany said...

i found you because you;ve been showing up in the 'recent readers' window thing-thing on my blog. i think it's run by something called 'my blog log.'
i'm not sure.
at any rate, you've shown up a few times...perhaps it was an accident, and you clicked away as quick as you could...but i make a point to visit everyone who visits me.

it this case, i will be back.
for sure.

(hopefully that doesn't make you cringe)

Loz said...

No Tiff - I have stayed around and read what you say and I'll also be back ;)