Replying to a negative question

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Mon Dec 24 17:32:02 UTC 2007

Don't forget Russian, where the negative reply to "You don't have any bananas, do you" is "Yes, we have no bananas." (i.e., Yes you are right in your assumption that I have no bananas.) Hence the popular song of the early 20th century. The songwriter must have heard this phrase spoken in English by a Russian immigrant.
About 1965 the Mafia boss Joe Bonano (nickname: Joe Bananas) was due in court for a hearing, and the reporters were out in force to cover the event.  They waited and waited, but Bonano never did show up.  At one point there was a moment of levity as the reporters in unison burst into song: "Yes, we have no Bananas, we have no Bananas today."
Gerald Cohen


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Joel S. Berson
Sent: Sun 12/23/2007 11:47 PM


There are also differences from English in other languages, such as
Japanese, I believe.  (If a native Japanese speaker is asked a
question in English phrased in the negative, he is likely to reply
"no" when the native English speaker would reply "yes", and vice versa.)


The American Dialect Society -

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