[Ads-l] No = 'yes; truly'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Oct 26 21:42:21 EDT 2017


> On Oct 26, 2017, at 9:12 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> "Isn't it?" prompts a positive response. She gave a positive response.
> Which requires "yes," not "no."
> 
> While I see your point about "No, it's not *kind* of embarrassing, it *is*
> embarrassing," I certainly did not (and do not) interpret the utterance
> this way. The intonation pattern did not sound right.  "Is" was not
> sufficiently stressed to convey that idea (i.e., "No! it IS
> embarrassing!"). I'm familiar with the patterns you mention, but this did
> not seem to belong.
> 
> The stress pattern was precisely that of ordinary, "Yes, it is
> embarrassing."  A simple statement rather than a (jocular) contradiction.
> 
> And I'm still waiting for the explanation of "Yes! We have no bananas!"
> 
> JL

Given the full context of the song, depicting the Greek fruitmonger who “yeses you to death” and whose English is not great to begin with, I’m not sure how much of an explanation is needed for his informing the customer that yes, we have-a no bananas today.  It probably doesn’t help that the Greek word for ‘yes' is “ne”, so maybe that’s what he’s telling the would-be bananaphage.  

LH


There's a fruit store on our street
It's run by a Greek.
And he keeps good things to eat
But you should hear him speak!
When you ask him anything, he never answers "no".
He just "yes"es you to death, and as he takes your dough
He tells you
"Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
We've string beans, and onions
Cabbageses, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned to-mah-to
A Long Island po-tah-to
But yes, we have no bananas.
We have no bananas today."

Business got so good for him that he wrote home today,
"Send me Pete and Nick and Jim; I need help right away."
When he got them in the store, there was fun, you bet.
Someone asked for "sparrow grass" and then the whole quartet
All answered
"Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
Just try those coconuts
Those walnuts and doughnuts
There ain't many nuts like they.
We'll sell you two kinds of red herring,
Dark brown, and ball-bearing.
But yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today."
------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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