When was the last time you said “yes”? Not in the figurative way—consenting to a request, acknowledging something delightful, embracing a generally optimistic outlook toward the world—but in the extremely specific way? When was the last time you reacted to something not with a “yeah,” or an “mm-hmm,” or an “oooooh,” or a “definitely,” but with a blunt, mono-syllabic—and out-loud—“yes”?
I can’t remember the last time I did. Possibly that's a sign that I’m a negative person whose glass is always half-dry and who literally just can't, but it’s probably also the result of a more general phenomenon: At this point, the scenarios in which anyone would actually say—or actually type—“yes” are increasingly scarce. When you’re filling out a tax form, and indicating whether or not you have your W-2 on-hand? Sure, yes. When you’re seated in an exit row on an airplane, and must aurally confirm your willingness to assist in an emergency? Yes. When you’re writing a thing on the Internet, and listing some of the remaining uses of the word “yes”? Yes.
Beyond that, though, many of us have been saying “no” to “yes.” The term has adopted an alienating formalism—like beginning an email with “Dear so-and-so” or ending a text with a pissed-off period. It’s become, at this point, a little bit passive-aggressive. (In a glossary of affirmations published last year, BuzzFeed interpreted the fuller meaning of “yes” as “I’m just trying to be clear. Also, I might not like you.”)