I Blame Phoebe Buffay
My friend Alex pointed out this mildly disturbing language trend recently. I'm sure you've heard it: the "yeah, no phenomenon." Example: "Yeah, no, I know what you mean." He said he's been hearing it often, and since we talked about it, I've noticed it everywhere too. "No, yeah, I don't like that show ether." "Yeah, no, I think that's a great idea." etc., etc., etc.
Essentially, the yeah and no cancel each other out, so you have to depend on the rest of the sentence for any kind of context. There's an interesting analysis at http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/18/1058035195876.html?oneclick=true.
Is it the result of hedging and trying to soften the affirmative or lessen the negative? Or is it a way to emphasize to someone that you actually agree with their negative or positive assessment of a situation? I'm not sure, but I blame Phoebe Buffay of Friends.
While I'm not a language purist, and I do embrace creative word use and the creation of new words, could I be any more annoyed at this "yeah, no" phrase? Yeah, no, probably.
Phoebe was great at using this essentially meaningless phrase. The thing about it is that it's so insideous! I've found myself using it lately, even when I've made a concerted effort to not use it. (Try not thinking about cows right now.)
I can understand trying to lessen the blow of no and soften the commitment of yes. As I've said before, the world is more often several shades of gray than, more simply, black and white. But if we agree to a yes or no, let's commit to either the affirmative or the negative. Commitment is often scary, but fence-sitting can become all-consuming. And then what happens? We sit around watching reruns of Friends all day...