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"Yes" is such a simple word, but it can be said in so many ways.

I'm not sure why such a short word needs any alterations, but it has plenty.

"Yeah" is a casual way of answering a question or emphasizing that you agree with something. It's pronounced like the chorus in the Beatles song, "She Loves You": (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

Are you coming or not?

Yeah, I'm right behind you.

"Yep" is another alteration, and it's informal. You probably wouldn't answer a drill sergeant with a "yep.''

Is this your dirty plate on the table?


And then we have "yup," another casual way of saying yes.

The American Heritage Dictionary says that "yup" is an alteration of "yep." So one alteration of "yes" has its own alteration. I can't decide whether that's inefficient or hyper-efficient.

In an oral vote, we have the yeas and the nays. That "yea" is pronounced "yay." Shouldn't it be spelled the same as "nay"? "Yay," though, means the same thing as "hooray."

Many longer words are simply synonyms of "yes."

All right. This can either be said begrudgingly (Oh, all right, I'll finish my Brussels sprouts) or enthusiastically (All right! No Brussels sprouts tonight!).

"Aye." This has a military feel. (Aye, aye, sir.)

"Okeydoke" or "okeydokey." These sound folksy.

Also: absolutely, affirmative, assuredly, certainly, exactly, indeed, indisputably, OK, positively, unquestionably.

Nobody can say that English doesn't give us choices.


In the last column, I talked about tools that have human names, and I've since received a few other ideas:

Dolly. When you need to move something heavy, you may use a dolly, a platform on wheels. This is not the origin of the musical Hello, Dolly!

Spinning Jenny. This is a spindled device that spins cotton or wool. Poor Jenny must have been dizzy.

Slim jim. This is that thing you use to open your car door when you have locked your keys inside. The name came from the adjective "slim-jim," meaning slender. It's one of the many phrases formed from rhyming words. The jerky snack called Slim Jim doesn't work nearly as well as a tool to get inside your car.

Bobby pin. This isn't a conventional tool, but I suppose it's a hair tool. The name probably came from the word "bob," a short haircut.

Many people sent the names of people who had tools and other things named after them, including the Allen wrench, the Diesel engine and the Phillips head screwdriver. I love learning about those things, and I'll write about them soon.

But I'll go ahead and tell you now that a "Phillips head screwdriver" is no reflection on the shape of inventor Henry Phillips' head.


I found a long list of words that the website The Vocabula Review has labeled "the worst." Most of the examples are simply incorrect uses of words or phrases, but I found some fun ones:

Acting out. This is a nice way of saying a child is being bratty.

Complected. I always thought this was a nonstandard usage. Merriam-Webster says its usage is fine. The American Heritage Dictionary calls it "informal." It means having a kind of complexion. "The man was dark-complected." It's distinctly American; it isn't used in British English.

Enthused. This is a back-formation from enthusiasm, meaning it was created after the noun. It means to be enthusiastic over something. This word irritates many people. Most members of the usage panel from the American Heritage Dictionary dislike its use.

Fecund. It means fertile or fruitful. I don't use this word, but only because I have to look up its definition each time I see it.

Incent, incentivize. OK, these two are bad. They both mean to give someone an incentive or motivation to do something. But these are bureaucratic words.

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Words with Jam, Vocabula, American Heritage Dictionary, World Wide Words

ActiveStyle on 03/26/2018

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