N is for No

| May 4, 2014

For a word that is only two letters, it is amazing how much weight it actually holds. It can be received in such an infinite number of contexts, that its connotations—and what it actually means—are actually quite complicated. It is one of the few words, that when used, can sometimes stand it for entire sentences or phrases that imply the opposite. Here are a few questions that have “no” as a possibility:

“Are you cold?”

“Would you like another slice of cake?”

“Were you in school like you were supposed to be?”

“Can anyone please answer this question?”

“Are you okay?”

“Will you marry me?”

Sometimes a “no” is simply just that—a negation of the statement or question. Other times, there is so much more swirling behind that “no” that it’s almost unfair to simply say it without further explanation.

According to Wikipedia, it’s the 56th most commonly used word in the English language. Which means we really do say it quite a lot and yet hardly give it any further thought. Its often-opposite, the word “yes,” isn’t even in the Top 100. I wonder what it means to have a language that favors this “negative” term over a more positive one, and how it shapes the way our systems of thought, action, and response operate. Although, perhaps I’m not looking at “no” in the right way. It is, after all, a word of power.

It’s a negation. It’s dissent. It’s refusal, shock, outrage. It’s “not.” It can be a noun, a part of a verb phrase, an adverb. It can even be an adjective. For example:

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Gotta appreciate the power of language, sometimes. (However arbitrary it may be.) Here: have a montage of “Nooo!” (Albeit, this is pretty much just the angry/ shocked kind of no.)