Thursday, October 22, 2020


            A Sixty Minutes piece on the Lincoln Project featured a poster image of President Trump with the word “Nope” in large print. The image led me to think about the difference between “no” and “nope.”


            Both words are a consequence of making a yes/no choice, but there’s more to it. At its simplest, “nope” has more swagger. More than just saying no, “nope” rejects the whole universe to which the nope-speaker is responding. As in:


            “So, are you going to get off your lazy ass and get a job?”




            “I dare you to take off all your clothes and go outside to feed the birds naked.”


            “Nope.” (Except I actually did this – on Kim’s dare. I was younger – much younger.)



            “Let’s all us guys sit down together and discuss our deepest feelings about each other, no matter how hurtful that might be.”




When you respond with “nope,” you are rejecting a whole system of values, not just a specific choice.


            So, now is the time for a moral gut-check. To what do you say “Nope”? It’s easy, by the way, to come up with a list of affirmatives to which you say “yes” – nature, love, peace, etc. – ho-hum. Negatives, I think, are more telling. Let me get started.


What I say “no” to:

·      liver (though Kim has a way of disguising it with onions)

·      most assholes (some have compensating virtues)

·      horror movies (with very few exceptions)

·      smoking

·      threesomes (not that I’ve had an opportunity to say no)

·      lies (with very few exceptions)


What I say “nope” to:

·      bungee jumping (had a chance, in Auckland)

·      heroin (“Just say nope.”)

·      fist fights (so far)

·      torture

·      malicious lies

·      malicious truth-telling

·      bow ties (except for bow tie pasta)


            Is there an equivalent super-affirmative version of “yes”? Here in Northern Michigan we have “Heck, yeah,” but it’s usually said so flatly that it comes off as about 5% more intense than a simple “yes.” In some parts of the country you have “You betcha,” which carries the same low weight.

            “Yep?” No, that word does not have the intensity of “nope.” It has some sort of rural overtones to it as well, without “nope” swagger. “Yep” feels a bit more tentative.


            How do I know this? Have I conducted extensive research? Nope. 



  1. Orson has recently added "nope" to his vocabulary - I love it when he uses nope as it has the side benefit of lightening the mood. Me: "Orson, eat your vegetables." Orson: "Nope!"

  2. According to Western movies I once saw, "Damned straight" and "You're damned tootin'" seemed to be emphatically better and stronger than current parlance.

  3. You are a consummate linguist. I think you've gotten exactly the difference. Now if you were talking about voting, would you say "No, I won't vote for Trump," or "Nope." I would say "NO" because it feels more like a moral choice, not flip, as in "Nope." Either way. :)