A trend away from answering "yes" or "no"

This is so impossibly nit-picky that I will probably be laughed or drummed out of here. Although… Dopers CAN be picky, too… so we shall see.

I have observed a trend such that when person A asks person B a yes-or-no question, person B doesn’t answer yes or no, but instead something like: “He is!” or “He did!” or “I am!” (This seems to apply more often when the answer is yes than when it is no, but further research/data compilation is needed.) The places I mostly hear people conversing is on NPR and IRL. I don’t listen to talk tv or radio except NPR, so I don’t know if this goes on anywhere else but NPR and in my own life.

Q: Are you going to Alaska on your vacation next year?
A: I am!

Q: Is your dog okay this morning?
A: She is!

Q: Do you like that car you just bought?
A: I do!

Q: Was the show good last night?
A: It was!

You get the idea. In each of these cases, a simple “yes” would have been lovely. I hear this a lot in interviews on NPR where the interviewer asks a question that screams to be answered with a straightforward yes or no, but the interviewee replies with a pretentious, pontifical, somber “It is!” (followed by other verbiage, but that’s okay).

My friend’s dog got hurt last night, so just now on the phone I asked her (example #2 above), “Is the dog okay this morning?” and she replied, “She is!” when the answer “yes” would have been so clean, crisp, clear, and minimalist.

Why does this annoy me? Does anyone care? THEY DO! This practice suggests euphemism, waffling, phony politeness, bogus humility, self deprecation, bad breath, dirty socks, and dandruff. And sometimes when I hear the answer phrased that way, I’m not sure if the answer IS yes or no. And sometimes I feel I have to ask (just to make sure), “Did you mean ‘yes’?’” because it sounds like they’re hiding something. I like a straight-out yes-or-no answer with no frills or pantaloons. Other sentences/explanations may follow. Okay. Got that off my chest. Thank you.

Does it bother you equally when someone answers with “yep/nope” “uh-huh/uh-uh” “right/wrong” or similar, or is it just the fact that they give multi-word answers when one would do?

I’m guilty of doing this because I find a single, terse yes/no to be be a bit abrupt and cold, especially on the phone. If I say “Yes they are” or “That’s not the case” I can use the tone and cadence of my voice to show whether I’m being pleasant and helpful or launching into “pay up or else” mode. I save the blunt yes/no for the people who really piss me off, to let them know I’m not arguing with them anymore.

Also it seems to me that a lot of the questions in your OP aren’t really yes/no answers, at least among people I know. “Is your dog all right?” is liable to get you a description of Fido’s every ache and whimper. “Are you going to Alaska on vacation?” is liable to get you a complete rundown of the itinerary and a lot of excited gushing.

To put it simply: Do I agree with your OP? No. :wink:

ETA After rereading your OP I see that you want a yes/no first, and long-winded explanations may follow. So just ignore that part :o

Thanks for the sporting reply. :wink:


I believe this is EXACTLY why people do it-- but I don’t expect them to just STOP with yes or no. As I said, further explanation is definitely okay (I said it twice, in fact). I love a long, detailed explanation… I just want it to be introduced by a crisp, clean, clear, to-the-point, unambiguous statement of position.

And to further clarify my nit-pickiness: “Yes, they are” is a good answer because it contains the word “yes.”

“That’s not the case” isn’t the kind of answer that bugs me.

The precise form of the answer that bugs me is ***ONLY ***the way I stated it in the OP, to wit, a TWO-WORD answer in the form, “It IS,” “They DO,” “I AM.” I haven’t addressed other ways of NOT saying YES straight-out. Only this exact form bugs the crap out of me.


I kind of see “I am” or “he does” as more engaging. It’s inviting more conversation. A simple yes or no can signal the end of a conversation.

My peeve, which I thought this thread would be about, is when someone asks, “Do you think that X is because of A or because of B?” and the other person inevitably answers with, “Well, I think it’s a little of both.” Have some balls and PICK ONE!

While we’re on language peeves, my main one is that in the US when I say thank you for a product/service in a store the attendent often replies with “uh-huh”. Irrational but it drives me bananas.

“No problem” is just as bad.

To Smeghead’s point: What if it IS a little of both and I’m not heavily invested in it being one or the other?

In my case, I may have been conditioned by 20 years of work in an environment where a yes/no question is too likely to be a trap, and it leaks over to innocent conversation.

The peeve I have about people in NPR interviews is when they’re asked a question, and they start their answer with “So”, no matter the type of question. I’d think it was some kind of regionalism, but I’ve heard tons of interviewees from all over the country doing it.

“How are the scientists sure this plant is really from these 30,000 year old seeds and not from some sort of contamination?”

“So the researchers made sure by blah de blah blah…”
“Do you think the increasing violence in Homs will force foreign powers to intercede?”

“So the French and Polish governments have said blah blah blah…”
“What applications do you think this new technology might lend itself to in the future?”

“So Apple has already contacted us expressing interest in blah blah blah…”
Drives me up a wall. Stop doing that.

I think people opt for them because they are a clarifying answer to what may be an oddly asked question.

If you went to the store yesterday and someone asked “Did you go to the store yesterday?” you would answer “yes”.
If they asked “Didn’t you go to the store yesterday?” which is actually the opposite question you would probably answer “yes” when the correct answer should be “no” which would/could confuse both the asker and the answerer.

Thus a more clarifying answer of “I did” answers without any confusion.

It would be a pretty horrible radio show if people tried to say as little as possible, wouldn’t it?

You’ve not moved to Wales have you? :wink:

I imagine this is the case pretty often. If a question is worded oddly, or the questioner seems to be dancing around something, I will sometimes answer with a full statement, rather than a “yes” or “no”.

The statement form ThelmaLou complains of might also be intended to convey a more intense or nuanced response; an extra syllable allows you to choose where to place emphasis. Consider:

“Is he going to Podunk?”
–“Yes.” (Blunt and clear, but conveys nothing but the bare facts.)
–“He is.” (Unemphasized confirmation conveys the same info as a simple “yes”.)
–“He is.” (Emphasis conveys that the speaker is inexplicably excited about someone else’s trip to Podunk.)
–“He is.” (Emphasis implies that someone else who might have been going to Podunk has been spared. While outside the scope of the original question, this may be relevant to the discussion.)

No problem :wink: ::runs like the wind::

I haven’t noticed this as any sort of “trend.” People have always been talking like that. Sometimes, a full sentence is desired. Sometimes a curt and perfunctory “yes” or “no.” Most of the time, in conversation, “yes/yeah/yep” or “no” sounds too abrupt to me, or there is the necessity of disambiguating the response to a question constructed in the negative.

ETA: Also, I seem to remember in Catholic grammar school in the 80s being drilled in responding in full sentences to yes-or-no questions.

Were we in a court of law, my answer would be “objection! Calls for speculation.”

I cannot answer “no” because I don’t know the mindset of anyone and perhaps someone does care. Nor can I answer “yes” without knowledge of that being the case.

So I answer for me. I do not care. At all. About this pet peeve of yours.

Thanks for the comments.

Did I make it clear that I expect and even welcome something AFTER the “yes”? NOT a curt “yes” that ends the conversation, but a clear “yes” followed by whatever you want to say?

The “so…” as an opening especially in NPR interviews seems to be an offense (and I agree, it is an offense) committed by a couple of interviewees or guests in particular.

These three are not the same answer, of course, and the OP is complaining only about the first.

Right. This isn’t a “new trend.” People do this–especially on the radio–because they want to ensure that their answer is clearly understood. Often these interviews don’t take place in person, so the interviewee unconsciously is quite aware that body gestures (nods, etc.) can’t be seen. Short yes-no answers can be missed by static, or other audio distractions, or simply an inattentive audience.

In English discourse you can do this with any auxiliary verb (be, do, have, modals). Interviewees will use this also simply to create a more formal register.

You did! But I still think it’s silly. The yes is implied - no waffling or evasion.

I seem to invariably find myself being asked things in the form of a yes/no question when the answer is never an easy yes or no. I would just answer “mu” but not many people know what that means, so I usually have to start with “sort of” or “kind of”.