Yes + No–A Paradoxical Language Habit that Just Makes Sense

I’d like to share with you tonight a quirk that’s wriggled its way into our modern English language. It’s so insidious that you’ve surely used it today without even noticing it. I’ve found it to be equal parts amusing, fascinating, and frustrating. Ever since I read about it, I’ve caught myself using it multiple times a day, in all settings–social and professional.

Alright, I’ll cut the suspense–it’s the paradoxical construction of “yes” plus “no” to emphasize the last part of the phrase. It sounds more confusing than it is.


Here are some examples:

Elizabeth: Don’t you like dancing?
Darcy: No, totally.

Katniss: Would you like some berries?
Peeta: Yeah, no.

Out of context, it may sound bizarre. But if you take note, as I have (inconveniently), you’ll hear it ALL THE TIME in conversation–I’d say only verbal, not written, at this point.

The phenomenon was recently explored at length in The New Yorker article, “What Part of ‘No, Totally’ Don’t You Understand” and more concisely in NPR’s “No, Yes, Definitely: On the Rise of ‘No, Totally’ As Linguistic Quirk.”

According to both, we’ve set this problem up for ourselves as the English language has evolved. As in many other current languages, English used to have a four-part positive/negative answer system. However, we’ve dropped down to two, causing us, perhaps subconsciously, to compensate for the meaning emphasis by combining the words.

NPR explains:

Schulz [in The New Yorker article]…found out that the English language used to have more options than just “yes” and “no.”

There were four options, to be precise: “yes,” “yea,” “no” and “nay.” She writes:

” … ‘nay’ was used to respond to positive statements or questions, while “no” was reserved for contradicting anything phrased in the negative.

Is the Tabard open?
Nay, it closed at midnight.
Isn’t Chaucer meeting us here? 
No, he went home to bed.”

So, there you have it! Tell me, dear readers–have you noticed yourself using this habit lately? I’m not arguing against it; in fact, Schulz argues that sometimes, using both words increases clarity of meaning, or at least adjusts intensity. I agree with that! It’s just very interesting the way it’s sneaked into our language–unnerving, perhaps, to a writer who takes great efforts in being deliberate in her word choices. ;) Can I get a “No, totally!”? ;)

Women Warriors–Literary Match-Ups

Hello, dear readers!

Imaginary battles between established have been a thing since action figures were invented–OK, maybe since imagination was invented. So while they’re certainly not new, this one, in particular, caught my eye.

Cage Match 2015 Round 3: Susan Sto-Helit vs. Alanna Trebond

This is a pretty neat concept: pitting literary heroines/#StrongFemaleCharacters against each other. This is my second round of voting, although the match is in round three at the moment. Each round on Suvudu features a story describing the battle and predicting the winner of the match.

Round 3 pits Tamora Pierce‘s Alanna Trebond vs. Sir Terry Pratchett’s Susan Sto-Helit. I will forever be partial to Tamora Pierce, but Pratchett’s recent passing and enormous fandom may tip this match in his favor.

Click here to see the match-up schedule.

Whom would you vote for, readers? Better yet–go cast your vote, then leave your decision in the comments. :)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Top Ten Quotes from Irish Authors

Jelly-Side Up:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear readers! To celebrate, I’m reblogging last year’s Top Ten Irish Author Quotes. Also, I’m posting Oreo’s official St. Patrick’s Day photo (edited courtesy of Jennifer):

Originally posted on Jelly-Side Up:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear readers! Pardon the pause in entries here–I’ve been sick and busy and finally well again–but I missed you! <3

St. Patrick’s Day is a beloved holiday, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland on the date of his death in the 5th century. I had no idea how much mythology had eclipsed the facts in popular customs, and that evolution of how stories grew into beliefs is just as fascinating as the stories and facts themselves. Many traditions actually began in America, some as a way for Irish immigrants to celebrate their nationality. Check out History.com’s brief video on that evolution here.

One of the traditions that started centuries ago was wearing green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day. As you know by now, I can never resist an opportunity to dress festively, so here was my business version of that today–complete with Facebook’s “emerald”…

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Happy Pi Day–Pi and Prejudice

Happy Pi Day! According to piday.org:

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Celebrations for this holiday have really picked up over the last few years. When I stumbled across this one on Buzzfeed, I found my new favorite:

If You Aren’t Having A “Pie And Prejudice” Party On Pi Day You Are A Dummy

It’s like a drinking game, but with pie and Pride and Prejudice. How else are you supposed to celebrate 3/14?!

What is Pie and Prejudice, you ask? Well, it's like a drinking game, except with pie!

Make sure to check out the whole list of hilarious instructions on how to celebrate. As a lover of both Pride and Prejudice and pie (and even, at times, pi), I am excited at the idea! However, I’ll have to enjoy it vicariously through you all, since I gave up sweets for Lent. :'( Or maybe I can just substitute fruit for pie…which just sounds so much less satisfying, but I’m sure the film would be sweetness enough…right? :-|

Are you planning to celebrate Pi Day, dear readers? If so, how? Please share your plans in the comments below! :)

Death of a Literary Legend: RIP to Sir Terry Pratchett

Very sad news arrived in the fantasy/sci-fi community yesterday: Sir Terry Pratchett, prolific fantasy/sci-fi writer, has passed away after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s. He wrote over 70 novels, many of which are considered modern classics. His unique wit and imagination have inspired millions of readers all over the world. Fans are certainly grieving today, not least of whom is his friend and co-author, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman wrote a touching tribute to the man here, citing his own earlier article last fall when confronted with the thought of losing Pratchett:

I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, “What would Terry do with this anger?” Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write. –Neil Gaiman

Another tribute came in the form of a comic from webcomic xkcd, illustrating the feelings of so many:

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

“Thank you for teaching us how big the world is by sharing so many of your own.” –xkcd.com’s tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett for his insight on humanity and life. I can’t believe I haven’t read his famous Discworld books yet, but they’ve been bumped up to the top of my to-be-read list now. Do you have a favorite Pratchett book, readers?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Feminist Young Adult Books

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! Since Sunday was International Women’s Day (click here for my blog post about “Strong Female Characters” on that day)–and since this month is Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to make today’s list fit that theme. Marissa Dubecky posted this lovely list on Bustle on Sunday: “12 Books For Young People That Will Turn You Into A Feminist At Any Age.” It includes classic favorites, like Jane Eyre, to modern hits, like The Hunger Games, and why they’re good representations of strong, capable women.

Click here for the list.

What books would you add, readers? Men–do you enjoy these just as much as women do? I’d venture to say yes. I think the best feminist books are the ones that are great books that just happen to feature Strong Female Characters. ;)

Strong Female Characters

Jelly-Side Up:

Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a celebration of women’s achievements and gender equality. To celebrate, I’m reblogging my post on “Strong Female Characters” in media–on what it means to be strong as a woman or man, as well as the modern popularity of this archetype and what it all means. Enjoy, and please add your own opinions in the comments!

Originally posted on Jelly-Side Up:

One article has captivated the entire literary community since its publication last week: “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” by Sophia McDougall. For modern readers and writers, that’s just about as offensive a statement as you can get. And written by a WOMAN? How dare she, right? That’s definitely what made me click, although I almost didn’t want to, on the sheer concept of it.

It was a smart publicity move, and beginning the article with a photo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this author clearly knew what she was doing. Pairing an unpopular statement with a popular picture, the author ensured readers from every angle of the issue would be invested.

Before I get too far into this article, let me promise you I am not going to devolve into man-bashing. That’s not what this is about.

Not today, Emma Stone.

This article identifies—and participates in, IMHO—a…

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