Yeah / No
A few years ago a friend pointed out to me "that New Zealanders say 'Yeah / No'". As is the way with such things, having become aware of this language habit, I now notice it all the time. It's not confined to New Zealanders - Australians do it too. What does it mean? It doesn't signal outright disagreement so much as a kind of reflexive acknowledgment of the other's position - remark, statement, supposition, whatever - followed by an assertion of one's own version. If the 'yeah' is an agreement, the 'no' is almost an apology. One person might say: "I thought you guys were going away this weekend?" and the other reply: "Yeah, no, we are." Is this a simultaneous registration of the other's doubt that the weekend was going to happen, followed by a denial that this doubt is valid? It seems to be. And yet ... there's often something fugitive in this surely bizarre conjunction of the positive and the negative. The shades of meaning conveyed can feel contradictory and, at the same time, ineffable. Perhaps 'yeah / no' speaks from a deep layer of the antipodean psyche, so deep that ultimate clarification is problematic, even, perhaps, impossible. Yeah, no, I know what you mean.