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.


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