The Difference Between 'Yeah, Nah' And 'Nah, Yeah'

Have you ever tried to explain the subtle intricacies of this magnificent piece of Aussie slang to someone from another country?

Top image via Shutterstock

Yeah/Nah is the Yin/Yang of Aussie slang.

While overseas, my group and I somehow managed to turn a conversation about the most hated word in the English language into a talk about uncouth Arabic slang, and from there managed to get to this most hallowed of Aussie sayings. Turns out, it's not so obvious to everyone else how versatile and loaded this dual phrase really is.

The key is the latter word, which decides whether it is ultimately a positive or negative statement.

Depending on context, "Nah, yeah" could be an affirmation that those other people are all wrong about the current subject, but we're right. They just don't get it. Someone might have just mocked a silly argument others use, in which case, Nah that's silly, and Yeah we know that's silly. Or it could be the start of an "I see your point, and we actually agree, but there's also this part." Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, and Nah, that's not what I was saying, and Yeah, we agree on that.

As for the "Yeah, nah", this less ambiguous phrase is a derision of whatever the current subject is. Most often the prior "Yeah" indicates we're on the same page, and nothing's gone over our heads, while the "Nah" confirms that despite our understanding, we still think it's bollocks. Like when someone tells a bad joke, and repeats the punchline. Yeah, dude we get it, but Nah, it's still not funny.

Often used while someone is explaining something to you, the "Yeah" sets them up, while the "Nah" knocks them down. Yeah, I get you, but Nah, that's a bad idea. Or maybe Yeah, I'm going to cut you off because I get what you're saying already, and Nah, that's not happening.

Also of importance is the pause between words. A "Yeah... Nah" (usually accompanied by a headshake and a smirk) can be seen as a shutdown, akin to "I see your argument, but, just no." With perhaps a little bit of "Let's move onto the next subject" added in.

At first glance the two seem interchangeable, but only the unskilled would wield Yeah/Nah in such a way. Brevity is the soul of wit, and in the hands (or mouths) of the wise, the Yeah/Nah can say a lot more than just two words.


Comments

    The order makes no difference. Its meaning is wholly dependent on the context of what was said before/after.

      The order makes all the difference. And how would what's said after make an impact on it? Do you own a time machine?

        "Yeah nah it's alright" versus "Nah yeah it's alright."

        What is the difference and why would you need a time machine to understand either statement?

          "Yeah nah it's alright" and "Nah yeah it's alright" might mean the same thing, but so does "Saskatchewan it's alright"

          Neither of which make any difference to your argument. Sasquatch you're still wrong!

            EDIT: Oops, meant to reply to Jaded.

            Question: I heard you paid 4K for this peice of crap car?
            Answer 1: Yeah (It was 4K), Nah (it's not crap).
            Answer 2: Nah (It wasn't 4K), Yeah (it is crap).

            Last edited 15/06/15 2:43 pm

    https://www.zazzle.com/yeah_nah_mug-168654701534776648

    Can't rightly say I've ever heard 'nah, yeah'. As for 'yeah, nah'... I've been lampooned by American friends for using what they see as ridiculous Australian slang.

    It's up there with the Indian head bobble. Is it Yes, is it no? The best description I ever got from an Indian friend was that it's kind of both. Their own version of the yeah, nah/nah,yeah mess.

    Yeah Yeah = Yes.
    Yeah Nah = No.
    Nah Yeah = Yes.
    Nah Nah = Banana.

    Yeah Yeah = Advanced Hair Studio.

    I find myself a lot dropping the Yeah in Yeah, Nah, I usually say "nah no worries". Which of course means yes.. right?

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