Affirmative interjection: "right?"
September 1, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed an informal language convention, usually among younger people, but not always. It's a kind of affirmative interjection: "Right?". For example:

Me: I'll be glad when this heat wave ends.
Interlocutor: Right? (variation: "I know, right?")

My question: Does this type of expression have a name? I initially filed it with tag questions like "innit", but it's not really a question, it's more like "totally!" with a high rising terminal. Bonus points for any links to discussion of this particular expression; a casual search at Language Log yielded nothing.
posted by everichon to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Uptalk
posted by dfriedman at 9:20 AM on September 1, 2009


Uptalk is an inflection; I think everichon is asking "what do you call the interjected not-exactly-interrogative word, like 'right' or 'yeah'?"--in other words, what's the term for that part of speech as it's used in uptalk.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on September 1, 2009


I Know, Right?

I Know, right?

I know, right?
posted by yeti at 9:31 AM on September 1, 2009


Descriptive-linguistics figleaf: though it makes me feel a little old, I have no interest in painting this expression as "wrong". It came up in conversation at dinner last night, and it's ubiquitous now in our area. I found I had no handle on it, and I like handles.

And yes, I am well aware of uptalk, and, per Sidhedevil, want a part-of-speech label to pin this bug to its mounting. Or some such.
posted by everichon at 9:32 AM on September 1, 2009


I think you're referring to "dialect," and while the normal usage typically involves region as the boundary, there's no reason why any group of people could not form their own dialect given only social boundaries, ie., in this case, age.

For a reference on expressions like these you may want to investigate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_American_Regional_English
posted by qbxk at 9:50 AM on September 1, 2009


I've been noticing this a lot too! Especially in my own speech.

I would consider it a discourse particle. Some might say discourse marker, but there are different schools of thought about what is considered a DM and what isn't. I suspect that both would agree that it is a discourse particle however.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:58 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It seems to be called a "tag question". (In Japanese, a trailing "ne?" on a sentence performs the same function.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:10 AM on September 1, 2009


I would call it a tag particle as well. It is very similar to the Canadian "eh" (also used with uptalk). I don't see how it is different from other tags like "yo" in urban american speech or "ya" in the UP and Wisconsin.
posted by saucysault at 10:10 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't confirm this, but it seems to me this started as a latino thing, spread to the larger Southern California culture, and has now apparently gone global?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:11 AM on September 1, 2009


hugobaron: It's positive feedback. Possibly also back-channelling - encouraging the addresser to continue on topic. the interrogative rising intonation also means the utterance translates as: "I heard what you just said, and as a measure of my complete agreement with your statement may I adopt the dramatic pose of someone who holds the same position and now wants to verify your agreement even though you established the proposition and it's clearly not necessary?" iamkimiam - I say it's not a discourse marker, I think they tend to fall within an extended discourse giving it explicit structure. And since it's not at the end of a longer utterance it doesn't qualify as a tag question. May I also point out that British people do not yet use this construction in significant numbers. It's, like, totally American, innit. But I'm sure we will soon enough.

everyone else: Right?

hugobaron: Totally!
posted by Hugobaron at 10:16 AM on September 1, 2009


The reason I rejected tag questions was that, unlike "innit" and "neh", these tend not be suffixes to a statement, but replies in their own right. IANALinguist.
posted by everichon at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2009


@everichon (these tend not be suffixes to a statement)

Right?
posted by Hugobaron at 10:21 AM on September 1, 2009


Sometimes in Japanese, "ne?" is an entire sentence.

As to calling it a "tag particle", English doesn't really have particles.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2009


I initially filed it with tag questions like "innit", but it's not really a question, it's more like "totally!" with a high rising terminal.

Well, the usage of "innit" you're talking about isn't really a question either. There are definitely cases where one person ends a sentence with "innit," but where it would be really odd for the other person to cut in and say "Yes it is" or "No it isn't."

This is true of tag questions in general in English. They can be genuine questions, but they can just as easily be politeness markers. "Pass the butter, won't you?" doesn't mean you expect an answer — it means you expect the butter, but you're being nice about it. Similarly, the right response to "Y'all come back, you hear?" isn't "Yes, I heard you." And the same goes for "right?" and "innit." (And even more so for AMIRITE, which never epects an answer. Snarking at the forefront of language change!)

For that matter, you can use some other tag questions to give an affirmative answer or agree with someone.

A: Can I get you something to drink?
B: Would you? [meaning: "Yes please"]

A: Man, we look pretty good in these outfits.
B: Don't we though? [meaning: "Hell yeah we do"]

So the whole "Right?" thing has slightly different connotations from those other tag questions, but it seems to me like it's basically still the same phenomenon.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm 25 and "I know right" is a big part of my vocabulary. I had no idea this was a generational thing.
posted by canadia at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that there may be more than one 'right' going on that each of us is orienting to in our attempts to pin this down to one thing. In other words, there is no right right, right? Right?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2009


Ooh... snap! (clicks fingers at iamkimiam.)
posted by Hugobaron at 10:32 AM on September 1, 2009


I don't know specifically where it came from, but anecdotally (in case it helps to trace it), I had never heard this until I moved to South Florida in 2005. I ended up picking it up from a a couple of co-workers who said it all the time (one was around 30 and the other in her 40's). Now I say it often and it drives my husband up a wall!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:40 AM on September 1, 2009


Tag question. IANAL, but tag questions appear to be an affirmation or emphasis on the previous statement, that are not meant to be taken literally and require the presence of the previous statement to make any sense. "Right?" qualifies.

Oh, and canadia, I'm 38 and "I know right" is a small part of my vocabulary, too, but I think I picked it up from my kids' preschool teachers who are roughly your age.

and now I'm gonna feel stupid every time I hear myself saying it
posted by davejay at 10:58 AM on September 1, 2009


I first noticed it in Juno:

Mac: No, I know I mean who's the father, Juno?
Juno: Umm... It's Paulie Bleeker.
Mac: Paulie Bleeker?
Juno: What?
Mac: I didn't think he had it in him!
Leah: I know, right?
Mac: All right, this is no laughing matter.
Juno: No, it's not...and, you know, Paulie is actually great...in, uh...in chair.
(source)

It's in this trailer at about forty seconds in. That's certainly helped to popularize it.

Not sure what to call it, other than a dialectical expression, or a slang expression.
posted by wheat at 10:59 AM on September 1, 2009


hugobaron: "I heard what you just said, and as a measure of my complete agreement with your statement may I adopt the dramatic pose of someone who holds the same position and now wants to verify your agreement even though you established the proposition and it's clearly not necessary?"


I love this!!! I think I am going to memorize it and actually use it once or twice in a conversation :D
posted by CathyG at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2009


I don't see this at all as a question. It has vaguely similar rising tone as a question, but I hear it more as a rise and an abrupt/subtle downturn in town at the very end, as expectation of further story (perhaps using an ellipsis instead of question mark) much as you might say when verifying items on a checklist.

Burritos.
Check... (in expectation of another item on the list)
Waffles.
Check...
Forks.
Check...

Crude ascii graph of the pitch change:
___,,,......----''''-

When I hear it, the person is acknowledging, "I'm with you so far," in expectation of more story to follow.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2009


tag questions appear to be an affirmation or emphasis on the previous statement, that are not meant to be taken literally and require the presence of the previous statement to make any sense.

Sometimes. But they can be either positive or negative:
You don't live here, do you?

You drank my beer, didn't you?
posted by Rash at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2009


I first noticed this in the movie Mean Girls, but it didn't seem new, exactly, just suddenly quotable. And it was all over the place in Juno, which I found really annoying.

I don't know about parts of speech, specifically, but it's basically an emphatic affirmation, like saying "yeah!" after someone says something you agree with.

I overheard this exchange (I'm paraphrasing) on the bus last week:
Teen 1 says something about someone they both know.
Teen 2: I-K-R!
Teen 1: What?
Teen 2: I-K-R. It means, "I know, right?". Like texting.
Teen 1: Oh.
So while you hip cats are only just now hearing about this li'l bit of teen lingo, it's already mutating into something even more cryptic and scary. (And annoying.)
posted by sportbucket at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2009


They used this is Friends all the time. That and "I know!"
posted by jopreacher at 2:13 PM on September 1, 2009


I've been noticing lots of my clients (who tend to be Native American) saying "huh?"

Me: "sure is hot today."
Client: "I know, huh?" or just "Huh?"
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:10 PM on September 1, 2009


Yes- my sister and I still email each other with I KNOW!! tags.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2009


My first post stripped out the <> / <> tags....
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2009


with monica in each...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2009


The TV show How I Met Your Mother uses this frequently also.
posted by theDrizzle at 4:47 PM on September 1, 2009


I don't see this at all as a question.posted by Quarter Pincher

I would say it is a question, but a completely rhetorical one. The first person says something, the respondent wants to express their agreement and/or interest in the topic and so they say "I know." to express the agreement, the "right?" is a rhetorical question to the original person, asking them if THEY agree with their own statement, which they obviously are not required to respond to, as they said it to begin with.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2009


@haveanicesummer - that's what I said, innit. Yagetme? Yeah?
posted by Hugobaron at 1:25 PM on September 2, 2009


As I understand it, the English slang version 'innit' derived from Chinese immigrants to Limehouse, East London, in the 19th Century. Anyone who knows Chinese dialects who can verify a Chinese precedent? They probably learned it from the Cockney 'ain't it?' . Right?
posted by Hugobaron at 1:29 PM on September 2, 2009


« Older How big a deal is it not to be...   |  Can you teach me how to do a s... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.