If you don't believe me, listen to a discussion between two sports announcers, or an interview between a journalist and a newsmaker. The number of people who now start talking by using the word "Yeah" will shock you.
We All Sound Like Jocks
My media training work slows down over the summer, but I did six training workshops. They were all delivered virtually, which was nice because I didn’t have to travel.
At one session, I interviewed a younger man and at the end of his interview I said “I bet you watch a lot of sports on TV?” His reply was “Yeah, how do you know.”
I told him “You started every one of your answers with the word yeah, just like you did now.”
I might be the only one who has noticed this, but it is amazing how many people being interviewed start their responses to questions from the reporter with the word “Yeah.”
It happens in sports all the time. Athletes being interviewed start most of their answers with yeah. Sports announcers on TV do the same thing. One announcer will throw it to the other by saying “The Blue Jays looked good at home last night”, to which the other sports guy will say “Yeah they sure did. They’ve been scoring a lot of runs at the Rogers Centre.”
It’s just not sports. It happens on the news channels as well, as experts comment on the latest developments in politics. I even hear it on Bloomberg Business. A stock market analyst was interviewed and started every response with the word yeah. He even used what I call the classic Yeah no.” His response went something like “Yeah, no I don’t see that happening to the market.”
How Did We Get Here?
My question is, how did this happen. How did we get here?
You may not have noticed. I follow these things much closer than almost anyone else. It’s my job and I have a natural curiosity about how people do interviews. I drive my family crazy as I critique interviews as we watch TV.
From time to time, it seems to be words and phrases creep that into the way we speak and cause some slight changes.
Lately I have heard far too many people use the word “amount” instead of “number” when they talk about something that can be counted or measured like goals scored by a player in a season, or votes in an election. For the record, if something can’t be easily counted or measured then “amount” should be used as in “the amount of rage in social media these days.”
The words “often times” or “oftentimes”, as it is sometimes spelled, have crept into our language in a big way over the last few years. In the past we just used the word “often”. Now often times is frequently used.
In hockey, we always used to use the term “face off.” Now we hear “puck drop” just as often.
Getting Back to Yeah
When people put the word yeah on the front of their response, it normally does nothing for their statement. When a player says “Yeah we played a really good game tonight” there’s no difference than saying “We played a really good game tonight.”
It’s a useless word. I believe it comes from people hearing others using it and they start to use it too. They don’t question why. They just do.
Monkey hear, monkey do.
I suppose it’s an affirmation word. You are confirming what the other person is suggesting is correct. It’s still useless.
It’s like starting a response with the word “so” as in “So, we decided to go away for the weekend.” Again, it’s a useless word that should be dropped. By eliminating it, your statement is stronger.
Toronto Blue Jays analyst Pat Tabler uses the phrase “a little bit” around 20 times a game. Each time he does it takes away from the strength of what he’s saying. He’ll make statements like “He has closed his stance just a little bit.” He may be correct in describing how much the batter has closed his stance, but if he just said “He’s closed his stance”, it’s a stronger and more clear statement. Those extra words distract from what he’s saying.
Words have meaning. When we use too many, or too few words, it takes away from our ability to communicate.
If you don’t believe me about this yeah thing, listen for it the next time you’re watching a sport on TV, or even somebody being interviewed. It’s everywhere.
Yeah, so stop saying yeah okay?