A question where 'yes' and 'no' both mean the same thing

So as I was laying awake in bed the other night, I was thinking about the question, “Can you hear me?”

If the person responds yes, then they were answering truthfully and can hear you. If they respond with no, they are being a wise ass and are effectively signalling that they can hear you. The only way to respond with a negative to this question would be to say “what?” and even then, the person might just be pulling your chain.

But anyhow, it’s clear that both a yes and a no response to the above question effectively mean yes.

Are there any other questions you can think of where both yes and no as a response would carry the same meaning? Is there a name for this type of thing?

“Could you give me an example of a one syllable word?”

Not exactly what you mean, but when I proposed to my wife she said, “No way!” which meant “Yes, and I can’t believe you asked me.”

Demetri Martin does a bit in his stand-up routine about how you get the exact same response when answering “yes” or “no” to the question “Are you ticklish?”

Are you asleep?

Are you awake?

“If I told you that yes means no and no means yes, what would you say if I asked you if you wanted me to hit you?”

I recently sent a person an email asking if they were dead. I think that counts, for similar reasons to the ‘awake’ question.

Also, to the question “Do you think that other woman is pretty?”, both answers mean you’re in trouble.

Are you going to answer this question with a lie?

The correct answer is, “What woman?”

Very slight hijack – I can picture scenarios where a “no” could be the truth. On a phone call with a faulty connection, for instance.

Actually, agreeing with any ‘negative’ by answering with a no is incorrect. As in:

“You mean you’re not going?”

You should answer, Yes, I’m not going”, but instead everyone inevitably says, No, I’m not going”.

Fail. The correct answer is, “Not as pretty as you, darling.”

“That chap with the squeaky voice, Jon Anderson, didn’t he used to be in… what was the name of that band? Rush?”


“He was in Rush?”


“You just said he was in Rush.”

“NO! YES!”

“Well, make up your mind.”

Etc. You could string it out indefinitely. Like the old MST3K sketch where Mike says that he likes Japanese theatre. Noh theatre specifically:

This post reminds of Abbot and Costello… Who’s on first?

“Oh, so you were looking at her. Why do you always look at women? I can’t believe I ever agreed to marry you; mother was right!”

Q: “Do you know the last name of that English poet from the early 1900’s? Alfred…”

A: “Noyes.”

So a lot of these have to do with the answerers capacity to answer, and the secondary information that the answer tells you. Another example is

‘do you ever lie?’

Then, of course, there’s a separate set of questions of which ‘do I look fat in this dress’ is the best example :smiley:

Yes! And What’s the name of the guy on second :slight_smile:

Don’t forget the third category where one or both of the answers “yes” and “no” are being interpreted as something other than their usual affirming/rebuffing meanings, like in post 2 or the one about the band.
And I pondered the ‘do you ever lie’ question, but the answers don’t have quite the same meaning; if you answer the question in the affirmative it will be taken as you saying that you think you’re REALLY honest, and if you answer in the negative you will be taken as not having that kind of ego/self-delusion.

Reminds me of this joke: