On a recent trip with some of my guy friends, we got to discussing the phrase “yeah, no,” a usage that one of our party found particularly annoying.
My annoyed friend considered “yeah, no” a recent development, an inescapable but obnoxious bit of Millennial verbal detritus on par with “LOL” and vocal fry.
I’m not so sure.
“Yeah, no” goes back in my experience at the latest to the 1990s, and its parallels in Spanish and French, “sí, no,” and “oui, non,” are common.
A couple of interpretations of this phrase stand out from its usage.