Almanac Conundrum: “Yeah-nah” – Discuss.

“Yeah-nah.” Discuss.


I’d really like to get to the bottom of this. Every time I think about the expression, it almost short circuits my brain.


Everyone knows the one I’m writing about, that seemingly non-committal initial response sportspeople often give when asked a question in a post-game interview: “Yeah-nah.”


WTF are they getting at?


Do they mean yes, but upon quick reflection, no?


In some ways, yes; in other respects, no?


Or – I don’t really know, so I’ll have a bit each-way?


Is it another form of saying “You tell me.”


Maybe it’s basically a meaningless bit of language that gives the answerer time to think further?


Perhaps the expression has a psychological basis, in that, desiring acceptance, the person saying “yeah-nah” is covering opposing possibilities?

. . .

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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. roger lowrey says

    Yeah nah, the playing group (sic) is really looking forward to this.

    Well I mean FFS, who else are you bloody talking about Einstein?


  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your response, RDL.
    “Yeah-nah” doesn’t often lead anywhere illuminating, does it?

  3. Its the equivalent to the politicians “let me be very clear”. Everything after that is very unclear.

  4. Liam Hauser says

    I find that a lot of people say “yeah, nah” (and occasionally “nah, yeah”) in general conversation, so it isn’t just sportspeople. I also find it hard to know what they’re getting at.
    But there are plenty of other expressions that I find far more irritating. My biggest peeve is “versed” and “versing” when used to describe opponents in a contest. Others that annoy me immensely are “defiantly” appearing instead of “definitely”, and “diffuse” when they really mean “defuse”, and people writing “apart of” instead of “a part of”. It also irks me if someone says they “could care less”.

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Good comparison, Dips!

    And many thanks, also, Liam, for your comments.

  6. I’m with Dips. Also “I will just make this point…”
    and then the point is not made. At all.

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Fair enough, Smokie! There’s certainly a pretty wide range of comparable expressions. And yes, as Liam indicates, they are not restricted to sportspeople – even if such expressions as “yeah-nah” often arise in a post-game context where the person concerned does not want to give much away.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    … or maybe is too stuffed to answer the question in any detail.

  9. Quite simple really.
    Yeah – I hear what you’re saying
    Nah – and I disagree

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for the succinct comment, JP.

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