Yeah, Seattle

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Tue Nov 23 16:39:06 UTC 1999

I was wondering when we were going to hear from Allen about this one.  My
guess was the same as his.  I still maintain that commas are commonly used
to "spell" intonation patterns, and in this case what the speakers do is
"leave out the comma."  I.e., they intone an utterance like "Yeah it is" as
a single sentence (with one primary stress and one falling intonation--both
on "Yeah"--and flat intonation on "it is," or sometimes with primary stress
and falling intonation on "Yeah" and rising intonation on "is") instead of
as two--i.e., "Yeah, it is" (with primary stress and falling intonation on
both "yeah" and "is").

I've heard this intonation pattern, but not for quite awhile, and haven't
ever associated it with the Pacific Northwest.  I have no idea where I've
heard it, but I have the impression it was from college-age speakers.  For
all I know they might have been from Seattle.  It's not prevalent enough
around here for me to have noticed, anyway.

Peter Mc.

--On Mon, Nov 22, 1999 8:53 PM -0800 "A. Maberry"
<maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU> wrote:

> Ok, this is my best guess. I think what Mr Crotty is referring to is a
> matter of intonation. I thought about this off and on all day and, after
> rereading the examples below, think that it is perfectly normal to hear in
> Seattle and perhaps the PNW generally something like:
> "She's a total fox." "YEAH-she-is"
> "Man, that's a long commute!" "YEAH-t-is"
> By which I mean a very quick response with a hard stress on "Yeah" and
> then a sharp decrease in emphasis on the rest of the phrase.
> The phrase does nothing more than to indicate agreement, usually strong
> agreement with what has been said. It's equivalent to "Sure is!" or the
> like.
> I never thought of this as peculiar to Seattle, or to any place
> else. Doesn't seem very tricky either, but maybe I've just been
> doing it for so long ...
> Perhaps Peter McGraw can help with the southern portion of the PNW
> dialect.
> Allen
> maberry at
> On Mon, 22 Nov 1999 AAllan at AOL.COM wrote:
>> According to Jim "the Mad Monk" Crotty's 1997 book, _How to Talk
>> American_, "the most important and tricky piece of Seattle vernacular"
>> is: "yeah." He adds: "It's almost _Fargo_-esque but different (not as
>> dorky, almost surfer-like) and best understood by example. 'So you got
>> mugged in New York?' 'Yeah I did.' 'She is a total fox.' 'Yeah she is.'"
>> I have two questions: 1. Is this really a distinguishing feature of
>> Seattle (youth?) vernacular? and
>> 2. what exactly is it? A matter of intonation, of pronunciation, of
>> placement in discourse, of frequency of use?
>> A writer for the Seattle Times, Jean Godden, included this item in a
>> column on Crotty's book without further comment, thereby implicitly
>> agreeing with it, I suppose, but not helping the explanation.
>> Thanks - Allan Metcalf

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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