02 June 2009

The infamous «да нет» (yes no)

Although I heard it a couple of times during meetings, I always thought of it as a casual error or a rare expression. Saying "Yes No" (at the same time) leaves a lot for imagination - think of a case when you ask your colleague whether she has correctly calculated the discount percentages and she replies "Yes No"- and you have to count on your sixth sense to guess if your counterpart agrees or disagrees to what you have just said...normally I was always wrong.

I have seen this article in Josefina's (a Swedish student in Siberia) blog and wanted to share it with you as my exclamation to end a years long curiosity. (and an ultimate undestanding that I will never speak Russian as Russians do)

Sometimes Russians may say something that sounds so strange that you cannot - even though you know the meaning of all the words in the sentence they just uttered - for the life of you understand what they mean. An example is the famous expression «да нет» [‘yes no'] which I up until a couple of days ago always thought was closer to «да» than «нет» but I was wrong. When Russians say «да нет» what they really mean is «нет». For example: «Ты пойдёшь завтра в кино?» [‘Are you going to the movies tomorrow?] «Да нет, не пойду»[No, I'm not going].

1 comment:

Tom J. Kiehn said...

You know, even better is the Russian reponse, "Da net, naverno" (literally: yes no, maybe).

I would render it in English as, "Nah, probably not"