Yes. No. Um, maybe...
They reckon that Eskimos have 200 words to describe snow. I guess that given the cold white stuff pretty well dominates everything they do this is not surprising. It would be interesting to know how many of the words are expletives of some kind for when snow gets into places it shouldn’t. Still, shouldn’t be a problem soon given the rate of contraction of the polar ice cap when the Inuit will need a whole lot of words for hot.
I think we need a bunch of words for yes and no. As it stands it is just too black and white, and you have to put together whole paragraphs to explain what you really mean: especially if you have chosen to say no. Someone who you don’t particularly like invites you to dinner. You’d rather be boiled in oil or poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick but what do you say without offending? If you say yes, then you have to battle depression and a sense of impending doom until the event and then drink too much at the time to cope. This then leads to a nasty hangover and your partner telling you later what an embarrassment you were. At least you don’t get invited back.
Saying no is a problem depending on how much of a ‘love slob’ you are. One famous psychologist reckons that we all like to be liked and become blackmailed by this need because we don’t want others to think badly of us: hence the term ‘love slob’. So, we tend to say yes when in fact we would really like to say no. This is part of the human condition in which we often don’t say what we mean and don’t mean what we say, driven as we are by motives that are quite unconscious. Saying no means having to make up a story to smooth things over. I personally don’t have anything against white lies but the fear of eternal damnation is a problem for some.
How about a whole new vocabulary that can save face and avoid all those excuses, lies or having to be a ‘love slob’? We could have ‘Yesno’, which is translated as, “Well, I could but I’d rather be tied to the mainmast and flogged and I’m a really embarrassed to tell you”. The other person would know, without any loss of face or excuses on both sides, never to ask again. This would put the onus on the requester and make them think about asking in the first place instead of putting you in an awkward situation. ‘Yeeeeeeeeees’ would be code for yes but not if you invite the Jones’s who are a real pain in the bum. ‘Yessssss’ would indicate that you are eternally grateful for the invitation because the other person is so important that it is amazing that a minnow such as yourself would be even considered and how else can I show my gratitude your royal highness? ‘Noyes’ would mean that really I would like to do it but need to put it on hold for a bit and the requester automatically knows to ask later at a more convenient time.
The alternative I guess is to give up being a ‘love slob’, which means being honest with yourself and not being blackmailed by the need to be liked. Tricky, but really useful if you can do it.
Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.