Remember the transformation of fail and win 5–6 years ago? Fleeting online slang phrases like bucket of fail and made of win may sound dated now, but terms like epic fail/win and FTW (“for the win”) and the words’ use as tags and hashtags remain popular. Fail and win have firmly, if informally, extended their grammatical domains, having been converted from verb to noun, interjection, and other categories.
A word undergoing comparable change is nope. Its metamorphosis over the last few years has in some ways been more impressive, but it seems less remarked on than fail and win – maybe because of its more limited distribution. For instance, this cartoon on Imgur (pronunciation note here), which shows Spider-Man shooting spiders from his hands, drew comments that use nope as a verb, adjective, and noun – mass and count – as well as duplicating, lengthening, and adverbifying it.
Some of the comments are listed below. A couple have swear words, so you might prefer to skip ahead if you’re likely to be offended by those:
NOPE. ONE BIG NOPE.
Just would be a whole lot of nope.
ive never seen this much nope in one gif
Nope train to fuckthatville
Spider Nope, Spider Nope, Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.
Oh look, it’s Nope O’clock
NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE ABANDON THREAD
scientifically those are not “spiders”… nopefically those are “nopenopenopenopenopes”
well he noped the fuck out and I don’t blame him
NOPE NOOpEo eopeOepeoopepeooepoepoe.
The last string, with its deliberately warped duplication, can be seen as an expression of repudiation from someone so bothered by what they see that they pretend they can no longer control themselves enough to calmly spell nope. It’s analogous to the can’t even constructions popular in communicating stupefaction or powerful emotion online.
The verb phrase nope out, seen in the second-last item above with an intensifying swear, is a spin-off of the new nope. It can mean wimp out, especially in a gaming context, or just flee or get the hell away without implying cowardice or timidity. Lucy Ferriss at Lingua Franca sees noping out as “a front-runner for slang ubiquity in the next two years or so”. But plain nope is already at that stage in some quarters.
These newish uses of nope typically appear in replies or comments to distressing material (e.g., images and gifs of spiders, insects, snakes, or other dread-inducing creatures), often as variations on memes and catchphrases, playful noun phrases, or other innovative expressions.
Nope is also common in “reaction gifs” that show an animal, actor, or animated character making a dramatic or amusing escape from a bad situation. Like the nopetopus:
To return to the text-only types, below are some further examples categorised by grammatical class, along with brief observations. All were found on Imgur; swear warning re-applies.
The firefighter just calmly noped away.
Noping all the way home.
I noped so much that I quickly tried to change to the next page
I’d nope the F out of there, if I were you
Did not take me long to nope it the fuck off this page.
I NOPED myself.
That'[s] exactly where I noped away from that movie.
The nopes just keep noping out of the nope hole…
Note the synonymous use of nope [out of there] and nope it [off this page], and the recurrence of nope away (cf. nope out). Different senses of the verb nope, including the reflexive form nope oneself, are described further down.
I can’t even express how nope this is
It’s like a puppy stampede except noper.
What is so nope about snakes?
The nopest book art that exists.
Very poisonous. Very beautiful. Very nope.
Sometimes so nope, very nope, much nope and the like are examples of doge, but the last item above seems a straightforward adjectival use, given the pattern that precedes it.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Noooooopppppee.
“nope” – Everyone ever
oh ha ha i see he’s playing with iOHFUCKNONOPENOPENOPE
Nope freaking nopity nope nope!
ahem *clears throat* NOOOOOPE! Nopedy nope nope!
NOOOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NUUUUUPE
Some of these interjectional uses show how nope is often repeated or lengthened to intensify the effect of rejection that it conveys.
This should be retitled “The Nope Album”
Straight from the country of Nope.
Also know[n] as the Nopen Nope Noper nope, genus Nopeila
why aren’t you on the fuckthat train to nopesville?!
HOLY FUCKING MOTHER OF NOPE!
Loch Nope Monster
Yup, that’s definitely Lake Nope in the Holy Shit province of Fuck-that-istan
So much nope
so many nopes
My god, look at all that nope!
For the sea is dark and full of nopes.
and here we have a nest of Nopes in their natural environment of the Fuckthat tree
The level of nope is too damn high!
You have a nope as a pet??!
That’s a giant cup of NOPE right there.
You may have all of my nope.
That’s eleven gallons of NOPE in a ten gallon hat.
Favorited for future nope.
And here you will see the 8 limbed NOPE
Honestly the water color is enough NOPE for me.
It should be A Game Of Nope And Fire.
The first two show succinctly how nope has become both a mass noun (so much nope) and a count noun (so many nopes). The Game of Nope and Fire quip, as well as combining Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire with the “game of nope” in the thread title, also alludes to the Kill it with fire! response common with this kind of material. You can also see the recurrence of playful combinations with fuckthat.
As some[o]ne who can science, i can positively identify this as a nopefish
That is a nopesnake.
that’s not morning, it’s nopetime.
Ah, the infamous Nopetree, growing in certain parts of Nope-istan.
NopeCreature in Nopehouse in Nopeland.
Oh, that’s the nopespider. It lives in noperica.
Assorted affixation and wordplay:
The nopification process.
Nopely nopent noping spider
It’s moving because NOPE
The morning dew really accents the nopeness on this Nope Bush.
This exuberant extension of nope is not limited to Imgur (though it’s a good place to browse examples: some pages have 100+); it’s also popular on Tumblr, Reddit, 4chan, and other image-heavy forums.
Some nope memes have been around a few years, and the word features in all sorts of image macros, often mixed with other fads and in-jokes. Archer’s use of nope is more like normal no, but the particular intonation there may have influenced some of the spellings elsewhere.
Given its frequency, some people are understandably tired of nope. One Imgurian protests, “Can we stop using the phrase ‘nope’ to refer to bugs and shit? It was funny in 2011, now it’s just annoying.” While it may be a subcultural cliché, nope is a rich source of both lexical and grammatical experimentation, which makes it pretty interesting linguistically.
As well as its morphological and syntactic versatility, the semantics of nope have also spread to encompass a range of referents. As a noun, it can refer to the object of dread (“baby nopes are kinda cute”; “much nope is contained in these books”), and to a person’s negative reaction to that object (“You may have all of my nope”; “it took ignoring the majority of my nopes to put my finger there for scale”).
In one example of the latter sense, a creepy lock of hair prompted a remark about Asian horror films (probably The Ring), to which a commenter replied: *NOPE INTENSIFIES*. This throwaway remark inadvertently sums up an aspect of the nope phenomenon; the ambiguity of my post title might make more sense now. I’ve also seen similar phrases such as noping intensifies and nopes intensify.
As a verb, nope can refer to getting quickly away (“He noped so hard, he was never heard from again”), scaring other people with a “nope” (“DON’T NOPE ME THEN TRY TO EARN MY TRUST WITH YOUR PET!!!!!”), soiling oneself with fright (“I think I just noped myself”), declining something nopeworthy (“I’m just gonna nope the link and believe you, and move on”), to something a “nope” does (“a giant herd of nopes noping at my heels”), and so on.
In his 2009 Word Routes post about the transformation of awesome, fail, win and co., Ben Zimmer noted a common thread in these “mass-nounified words”: that they “can have the force of an interjection”. Nope wasn’t a verb to begin with, and it already had interjectional qualities, but its use has broadened similarly and its sound and structure make it very open to inflection, affixation, and other kinds of creative mutation.
Used to reject utterly and forcefully an upsetting image, scenario, or idea, nope has manoeuvred itself into an endless array of grammatical and lexical forms. No category leap seems beyond it, no catchphrase safe from potential nope-jacking. In the infectious, rapid-fire wordplay of web forums like Imgur, nope has quickly established itself as a signature term and one spawning constant novelty and repetition.
Whether it declines like an old grey spider, or spreads further like a brood of baby ones in the wind, remains to be seen.
James Harbeck has a nice article in The Week on why we have so many words for yes and no, in which he elaborates a little on where yep and nope came from.