Etymology of "I know, right?"
April 18, 2013 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I have a theory about the origin of the expression “I know, right?” that’s been fairly popular among young and youngish Americans (and others, for all I know) for the past several years. I’m testing that theory with this question. I understand that Mexicans (and maybe other Latin Americans) have an equivalent expression, “Sí, ¿verdad?” - even with the same intonation as “I know, right?”. Well, one source has told me this, anyway. Can other people verify this? And if so, how common is/was the Spanish version of the expression, and roughly when (and where) did people start saying it?
posted by Mechitar to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a language log post about it.

I associate it with the tv show Friends.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:01 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, Chileans tend to end their sentences with "cierto?" in a tone that to me seems similar to the tone used when saying "I know, right?" They'll also use "cierto" on its own when they are asking for affirmation or agreeing with something you've said (always in that same questioning tone though). I never noticed it as much in other countries I've lived in (Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Ecuador), but I think that may have more to do with my relative inexperience with the Spanish language back then than anything. They do indeed say "verdad" instead of "cierto" in those countries though.
posted by luciernaga at 8:17 AM on April 18, 2013

In my somewhat limited interaction with Spanish-speaking individuals, I hear just the "¿verdad?" as a sentence break/conjunction/whatever.

Sort of like "you know?" in English.
posted by kuanes at 8:29 AM on April 18, 2013

I will admit that I use both "I know, right?" and "Sí, ¿verdad?" and I do attribute it to always saying "Sí, ¿verdad?" and then just saying it in English without thinking. But that's just my perspective. Just like I'll say "Don't tell me!" as in "No me digas!" which is a phrase native in Spanish and not in English.
posted by xicana63 at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2013

Mexican here; "sí, ¿verdad?" is indeed a common expression. I don't think it's recent at all.
posted by clearlydemon at 9:31 AM on April 18, 2013

The Language Log post is excellent; read it. And trust me, the English expression is not from Spanish and has nothing to do with Spanish.
posted by languagehat at 10:26 AM on April 18, 2013

I knew this sounded familiar! Previously, on AskMeFi. The talk here is more about the inflection and less on the etymology. They don't mention any connection to Spanish.
posted by sportbucket at 11:26 AM on April 18, 2013

The first time this expression came to my attention would have been around 2004 when the comedy troupe "Stella" released a collection of their short sketches on DVD.

In the first twenty seconds (absurd humor, possibly nsfw, and Bradley Cooper follow that) the line is uttered by Michael Showalter with a humorous over emphasis on the pitch shift in "right" while also somehow introducing an elongated 'o' sound into it.

Now I figured that Showalter was pronouncing it that way to satirize its usage. I hadn't heard it in common usage where I was at the time (Chicago) but my friends and I still found it funny so it quickly found it's way into our every day conversations.

Later, maybe about three or four years ago (about the time that some of those articles in the "up talk" thread were written), I started hearing other people start using it too. At first I thought that they'd maybe seen the sketch but that started to appear highly unlikely as the people who used it didn't really fit the mold of watching, let alone repeating, an obscure sketch bit. And, of course, they were expressing the expression with all sincerity.

Given all this I'd say that the expression somehow originated on the coasts and then moved inwards. I know that clinical etymology can be a real pain so if I was a little long winded it was for the sake of posterity.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 3:26 PM on April 18, 2013

Definitely not new - my friends and I used this in our Connecticut high school in the '80s.
posted by camyram at 6:20 AM on April 19, 2013

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