No Means Yes

Air Control Guy:'re not just impersonating a pilot so you can drink here [at the pilots-only bar], are you?...
Homer: *ashamed* Yeah. That's exactly why I'm here.
Air Control Guy: [laughs] You fly boys crack me up!
*cut to outside the plane*
Homer: But I keep telling you, I'm not a pilot!
Air Control Guy (angrily): And I keep telling you; you fly boys crack me up! *throws him into the cockpit*

For whatever reason, Alice has been mistaken for an authority on some matter of vital importance, or the keeper of some terrible secret, or perhaps is simply normally known for sarcastic wit. When questioned on a subject she flat out denies it, but her denials are instead pounced on and taken as a winking admission instead, so each denial has a stronger and stronger opposite effect.

Can be caused by Sarcasm-Blind, Nonverbal Miscommunication, Poor Communication Kills or Cassandra Truth. Often part of a Kafka Komedy. See also Once for Yes, Twice for No for instances where "No" means "Yes, yes". In the case of a Confusing Multiple Negative, two "Nos" taken as a "Yes" are not misinterpreted.

This may have originated with Sigmund Freud, who claimed that a patient who says "no" is simply in denial, and the more vehemently they say "no", the more likely the real answer is "yes". (Most of Freud's clients were women, the silly little creatures.) This rationale is used in lots of Slap-Slap-Kiss situations, but also in Real Life as a seduction line, and more seriously to condone rape.


Anime and Manga
  • A lot of yaoi manga mix this with the idea of rape being love with the domineering Seme telling the weepy Uke some variation of "Your mouth says no, but your body says yes" during sex. This is sadly Truth in Television. Some actual rapists try to justify their crime with this line.


  • Famously used in Monty Pythons Life Of Brian, when Brian is cornered by his cult. He denies being the Messiah, but one of his followers shouts "Only the true Messiah denies his divinity!", leading them to become even more fanatical. Of course, changing tack and claiming to be the messiah doesn't work either.
  • Played straight and for laughs in the third The Naked Gun movie, when Jane is harassed by a sleazy truck driver. She repeatedly and firmly tells him "no", which he dismisses by claiming, "I know when a woman says "no", she really means "yes"". Fed up, she finally tells him "yes". Angered, he grabs her, asking, "What do you mean, telling me "no"?", forcing her to defend herself.

  • Used in just about any media in which a character says they don't want a birthday party.

  • As a joke goes: "If a lady says 'No', she means 'Maybe'; if she says 'Maybe', she means 'Yes'; if she says 'Yes', she's no lady." Conversely: "If a diplomat says 'Yes', he means 'Maybe'; if he says 'Maybe', he means 'No'; if he says 'No', he's no diplomat."
  • A common joke regarding Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: If your wife answers "no" to questions like "Is something wrong?", "Do you need anything?" or "Am I in trouble?", you might as well move to the couch right away.

  • Dave Barry mentions this in one pre-1992 column: The readers know that whatever the official press agency says, it's always a lie, such as announcing the glorious Soviet troops riding in nuclear-powered tanks had scored yet another victory against the evil widow-stabbing baby-eating oppressive capitalist dogs.
  • In Yellow Blue Tibia, the sci-fi writer Skvorecky ends up at a club for UFO fanatics. He flat-out denies that UFOs exist, but because they live in Soviet Russia, everyone simply assumes that when an authority figure denies something, that means it must be true, and so "no" is an even stronger affirmative than "yes".
  • In Umberto Eco's Foucaults Pendulum, the protagonists make up a Templar World Domination Plan, based on verified historical facts, for their own amusement. When a group of occultists gets wind of this, they think "The Plan" is genuine and want to know about it. The protagonists' denial of the existence of a Plan are, of course, taken as proof of The Plan's existence. Note that even if the book somehow mocks occultists and their beliefs in "Master Plans" or "Secret Messages" (one of the characters, Lia, says this openly), there were people who actually thought Eco was giving a codified message with this book.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth and takes her increasingly firm rejections of him as her just Playing Hard to Get (as a properly serious and demure young lady should from what he's heard) until she becomes fed up and leaves the room.

Live-Action Television
  • Many years ago on Late Night, Conan O'Brien did a bit where his studio had been "infested with hipsters", who took his increasingly angry requests to leave (and everything else he said) ironically.
  • Inverted on The Cosby Show, where Elvin learns the hard way that Sondra saying, "Yes, it's okay if you go out" (referring to him having dinner with an ex) meant "No, I don't want you to go out".
  • Also inverted on Perfect Strangers, when Jennifer asks Larry if it's all right if she has dinner with her ex-boyfriend. He says "Yes". Balki naturally assumes they're going to engage in some idiotic hijinks, but Larry admits that his "yes" was genuine and that while he isn't thrilled, (a) he trusts Jennifer, and (b) figures she'll be pleased to realize this. Of course, it turns out she wanted him to tell her "no" to prove that he cares about her.
  • On All My Children, after Kit Fisher is raped, attacked in the parking lot of the bar she was hanging out at. When her attacker is brought to court, he claims that the sex was consensual, even as he freely admits that Kit told him "No" when he made advances to her, insisting, "Of course she said "no". They all say that." thus revealing himself to not only be Kit's rapist, but probably of other women, all because he genuinely does not realize that "no" means. . ."no". Later, when he confides in a female friend, he stubbornly continues to insist, "She said "no", but she meant "yes", horrifying his friend who had stood by him because she genuinely thought he was innocent. When she angrily tells him to leave her home, she nearly becomes his next victim as he now starts to complain "So now you're starting with that crap too?"
  • On an episode of Murder, She Wrote, Jessica is visiting friends when the requisite murder takes place. The investigating cop inexplicably becomes convinced that Jessica works for the CIA and takes everything she says as some kind of code—when she introduces someone as "a friend of mine", he takes it to mean that this person is also involved in the CIA. All of her denials serve to do nothing more than convince him otherwise.

Western Animation
  • During an episode of Spongebob Squarepants Sandy warns Spongebob and Patrick not to get in her treedome because she is undergoing hibernation and doesn't want to be disturbed. Despite her warning, Patrick still goes in, reasoning this to Spongebob on why they should still go inside.
  • Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special: When Carl made a comment on the Sal Tuscanny CD Perry won at O.W.C.A.'s Secret Santa, Major Monogram assumed it was Carl's way to tell he gave the CD. No matter how many times Carl denied being the one who gave it, Monogram wouldn't believe. When it was finally revealed the CD was given by some intruder, Monogram accused Carl of lying about it. Carl tried to point out he never claimed to be the one who gave it but Monogram interrupted him and asked if Carl hasn't caused enough problems.
  • Danger Mouse uses this to defeat the anti-logic Gremlin in the episode "Gremlin Alert."
  • Mater runs into this in Cars 2 once he realizes that spies Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell think he's also a spy:
    Mater: But you know I'm just a tow truck, right?
    Finn: Right. And I'm just in the import-export business.

Real Life
  • Some languages like Japanese put the negative right at the end of the sentence, meaning that refusal or denial sounds like an affirmation until the last second. Naturally this can be a problem with impatient individuals.
  • The ritual of assigning blame for flatulence sometimes includes the claim "He who denied it supplied it".
  • During a lecture, the Oxford linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin made the claim that although a double negative in English implies a positive meaning, there is no language in which a double positive implies a negative. To which his colleague Sidney Morgenbesser responded in a dismissive tone: "Yeah, yeah."