Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yeah no, really

In the first section of The Savage Detectives, García Madero wonders about the Mexican slang term: 'If simón is slang for yes and nel means no, then what does simonel mean?' Four hundred pages later, at the end of the middle section, a former poet named Amadeo Salvatierra ('Like so many hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, I too, when the moment came, stopped writing and reading poetry') recounts the drunken discussion he had one night with Lima and Belano when they had come to seek out any information he might possess about their vanished Cesárea Tinajero:

And I saw two boys, one awake and the other asleep, and the one who was asleep said don't worry, Amadeo, we'll find Cesárea for you even if we have to look under every stone in the north ... And I insisted: don't do it for me. And the one who was asleep ... said: we're not doing it for you, Amadeo, we're doing it for Mexico, for Latin America, for the Third World, for our girlfriends, because we feel like doing it. Were they joking? Weren't they joking?... and then I said: boys, is it worth it? is it worth it? is it really worth it? and the one who was asleep said Simonel.

I was thinking today about the contemporary expression "Yeah no." As far as I can determine, it means "I acknowledge the situation as described as well as the not very helpful suggestion that I take a certain action, but there's no way I am actually going to do that."

Example:

"Look, you could enter this short story contest, you just have to have had some connection to the South, and your story has to be set in the South; you lived in Texas for ten years, why don't you write something funny about it and send it in?"

"Yeah no."

That's just a made-up example. I had reason to use the expression the other day but I can't remember why. Still, it's a useful expression.

The other thought I have about reading and writing is from a Sep. 6, 1959 letter of Flannery O'Connor:

I read about 80 pages of Dr. Pasternak but I am so slow that the book had to go back ere I had fairly begun. There were a lot of wonderful things in those 80 pages but I don't think I could have stood that much formlessness for however many hundred pages there were. A friend of mine reviewed it and said it was like a huge shipwreck with a lot of beautiful things floating in it.

That's already wonderful, but then she immediately follows with these amazing sentences:

You are not supposed to feel at home or at ease in any of the forms you see around you. Create your own form out of what you've got, let it take care of itself.

And then, at the end of the letter:

The thing for you to do is write something with a delayed reaction like those capsules that take an hour to melt in your stomach. In this way, it could be performed on Monday and not make them vomit until Wednesday, by which time they would not be sure who was to blame. This is the principle I operate under and I find it works very well.

-- p. 349, "The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor."

1 comment:

anna said...

"yeah no" has a lot to do with intonation. it's one of the more sarcastic expressions out there, depending on how long you draw out the vowels.