Yes AND no

Posted by Mugball-us on December 09, 2004

In Reply to: Yes no found elsewhere too posted by Keith Rennie on December 07, 2004

: : There has been some discussion lately in Australia re the use of 'yes no' in sentences. Usually they begin the sentences this way.

: : Here's an example of how it goes: "I heard you did well in your exams last week?" "Yes no, it was a tough one, but I got through."

: : The talk here is that this is purely an Australian idiosyncrasy. Is that correct?

: : It is definitely a peculiar thing and I often hear replies to questions answered this way. There was a long debate over why, a few weeks ago, and the suggestion was that when people are answering the question, they're having a debate in their own minds. eg. In the case of the example above that I provided, the person is thinking, well, yes, I did well, but no, not as well as I would have liked cos it was a tough exam. And somehow that translates into one of those strange 'yes no' responses.

: : So, after all that, my question is: Is this really just an Australian thing, or do people elsewhere say this too? --GODDESS

: Not only Australian.

: Exactly the same is found in southern Africa, in the form Yah no, . . . used among all social classes including the educated elite, and its listed in one of the larger Oxford dictionaries: Ive been searching in vain for the title and if anyone can help . . .its the authority on regional and subregional dialects across the word, organized by region and country, and I think its something like the Oxford Dictionary of International English/Commonwealth English . . .. It's an introductory filler phrase, or attention-getter, like "Well, . . ." usually followed by a slight pause and does indeed imply that the speaker is giving some thought to what they will say. Does not require a preceding question.

In the States you will find "Yes and no" used exactly the same way. In speech the "and" is often almost entirely elided or slurred with the "n" of "no" until it's barely discernable. All that's left is a lengthening of the "nnn" sound. Nevertheless, in writing, the phrase is almost universally rendered "yes and no" regardless.

It looks to me as if we are on the road to joining the Southern Hemisphere on the "Yes no" side of the street.