Lexicon Valley Dissects the Phrase “Yeah, No…”

A show about the mysteries of English.
June 10 2013 3:05 PM

Does “Yeah, No …” Mean Yes or No (or Both)?

Listen to Slate’s podcast about the seemingly paradoxical phrase and its hidden logic.

Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 27: Accentuate the Positive

If the goal of communication is to be clear and easily understood, then the increasingly common phrase “Yeah, no …” would seem an unfortunate trend. Does it mean yes? Does it mean no? Could it possibly mean both? In fact, according to research by a couple of Australian linguists, “yeah, no” (and its less popular sibling “yes, no”) has a hidden logic all its own and can be used in a number of discrete ways. Listen to Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo dissect a construction that appears to be contradictory but is actually quite useful.

You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

Send your thoughts about the show to slatelexiconvalley@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.