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No, in 100 words

Updated on May 7, 2020

No, in so many ways.

Convinced No: The problem with many Nos floating around in the atmosphere is that they lack certainty. They are said with a small mouth, a tiny pout, a frail voice, and thus they lack luster and credibility. If you mean No, say it proudly, out loud, stomp your foot on the floor for emphasis, if you must. In short, don't leave any room for doubts or interpretation. If you mean No, act as if you believe it. No is a powerful word, don't be weak when saying it, be as strong as the word itself. No is as No does.

Authoritarian No: Make it snappy, a quick whoosh of air that takes a millisecond to travel from your brain to your tongue to the outer world. It doesn't need to be loud, just quick and certain. The most authoritarian Nos are prompt. A slower Noooo allows for doubt to creep in the mind of the listener, and doubts lead to discussions and negotiations, and you don't want to negotiate a No with authority, you want it to stick and take hold. You don't want it to need excuses or explanations. You want it to be last word in a conversation.

When you actually mean Maybe: Say it demurely, bat your eyelashes a la southern belle while rolling the word in your mouth as if you were tasting wine, prolong the ooooos, make them last. That's the best No that really means Maybe. By saying No this way, you leave so much time for your listener to wonder whether you really mean it, that you simply and masterfully translated a simple one syllable short No into a two syllable, very distinct Maybe. Bat your eyelashes for good measure after Nooooooo has parted company with your lips, and there you have it.


The simple and elegant No: You don't need to convince anybody, you don't need to demonstrate authority, in fact you don't care at all if others believe you or not, you just want to state that you don't believe or wish or care for something in particular. Be elegant about it, say No with aplomb, letting it go smoothly, in a normal tone of voice, letting it last only what it naturally takes a two-letter word to be spoken. This is a No that you speak for yourself, not for an audience, not for approval, this No is yours alone


The desperate No: This is a personal, inimitable No, and there are probably as many ways to utter it as people suffering in the universe. If I were to describe it, I'd say it sounds like the owner is short of breath, like they were punched in the stomach and the No is a buff of air that surges as consequence of the pain, a reflex more than a voluntary action. This No isn't just a negation, it's disbelief and anger and hopelessness all rolled up into a quickly spit syllable that rings as painful and inevitable as death itself.


The doubtful No: As many words as one can use to express doubt or incredulity, I'd say No is number one, a true favorite, to quite succinctly and concisely paint a big, invisible question mark into the air. This No has a strong sounding, prolonged N and very pointy and noisy O. In one extreme, it blasts while its owner looks on with wide open eyes of innocent ingenuity and a pouty mouth full of surprise. In the other, it accompanies slit eyes and a savvy smirk that convey as much if not more incredulity than the No itself does.


Feeling daring? Inspired? Challenged or challenging? Give me a new variety of No and I'll expand the collection. I'll keep it snappy, 100 words are the limit for any type of No.

The Nos that follow are upon request.


The lying No is the opposite of a No with conviction. It lacks certainty, is said with a small mouth and a tiny voice, and it's accompanied by a loud non verbal message –slumped shoulders and downcast eyes looking everywhere but at the recipient. It screams "Lie!" as surely as Pinocchio's nose growing. A lying No achieves no purpose except pegging the owner as a dupe and a liar. It's such a fluke that one wonders why adults still utter this kind of No past childhood, as if it were a shield against the truths that it tries to protect.


Non emotional, detached "nope": Raise one eyebrow ever so slightly and half close one eye while you look at your counterpart as if you were seriously considering saying anything but No. Then, without raising your voice nor inflecting it in the least, blow a short and quick nope where the no is actually unheard and the only sound that makes it to the world is a tight, condensed P, like a minuscule firework's explosion. Bat your eyelashes very slowly, and disdainfully turn your head sideways, as if you had already utterly forgotten what was it that you were talking about.


The cynical Nah: This No needs to be coupled with a facial expression of distrust going on disdain, even contempt. Slightly curl your lip up, in a half smile-look-alike that will never reach your eyes. Those need to be half shuttered, as if you were focusing hard on something –think of a particularly nasty crawler coming off the kitchen sink, for example. Hold the expression for a few unnaturally long seconds, and then kick a Nah off the corner of your curled lip, like you can't bother with a full mouth sound. Turn your back and be done with it.

Christopher Reilly, not quite what he said, but inspired by it.

Unsaid No: Can No be said without actually saying the word? Sure, you're thinking, just shake your head, quicker or slower, to make it NOOOOO! or Naaaaah. But I'm not talking about that obvious non-verbal No, I mean the subtle variety, one that conveys emotions you can't or don't want to verbalize. This No is about silence, about negating with your eyes, unfriendly, doubtful, sad, sorry... It's a slightly titled head, pursed lips, a foot tapping on the floor maybe, a shoulder that moves up as if in question. When you feel No strongly enough, it just pours off you.

© 2009 Elena.


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