Linguists ponder when "no" means "yes."

Okay, full disclosure: I know that this kind of feature is not for everyone, but I had to post anyway.  This one goes out to all of the love seat linguists that are fascinated by the quirks and evolving history of the English language. A few days ago I came across this piece from The New Yorker.  "What Part of 'No, Totally' Don’t You Understand?" delves into the semi-recent language phenomenon of "no" increasingly "yes."

Illustration by Ellen Surrey, via The New Yorker.
Illustration by Ellen Surrey, via The New Yorker.

Think about how many times you hear the following:

"No, for sure."

"Yeah, not even."

"No, absolutely."

As it turns out English used to have two different types of 'nos' - no and nay- and two different types of 'yes' - yes and yea.  Schulz postulates that with the shift to just one type of no and yes might have led us to adopt the quirky no-as-yes construction.

It's a long, nerdy read but I loved it.

For those curious but in a rush, the fine folks at NPR's All Things Considered interviewed the writer of the piece, Kathryn Schulz.  You can listen to the interview here.