When I say no I sometimes mean yes

Not in that way. Believe me, in situations where someone is trying to get into bits of my clothing where I don’t want them, I’m very particular about my syntax. No, this was sparked by reading an interview with Alan Bennett last week:

It’s easy to assume Bennett is meek and appeasing, not least because of the lovely straggly voice that sounds as if he’s forever sucking toffees. The truth could not be more different. He is assertive (he insists on his photographer and dictates the terms of the interview), obdurate and, at times, wilfully contrary. Even when he means yes, he’ll start his sentence with a no. He’s also great fun.

“Even when he means yes, he’ll start his sentence with a no.” Hang on, I do that. No, really, I do. See the first paragraph, which I genuinely wrote without even thinking about it. I got a hunch. I asked my friend Liz whether she does it. Yes, she says things like “No, I know”. The three of us – me, Liz, and our Alan – hail from the same corner of Leeds.

Is this coincidence? Or is it honest-to-god dialect that I’ve not managed to wipe from my consciousness? Maybe it’s like how I say ‘while’ instead of ‘until’, which is a Yorkshire thing:

“When’s the shop open, Rachel?”
“9 while 6, Bob.”

I’m asking for help. Do you do this? Where are you from? Can you find me some Northerners, perhaps from Yorkshire, perhaps from Leeds?  Do other people use the word ‘no’ as a random substitute for ‘look’, ‘well’, ‘yes’, ‘erm’? Because I think I’ve got in trouble for this in the past, and it would be nice to be able to say I’m not being deliberately obstructive, this is just how I was raised and you’re being all discriminatory and shit.


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