“Nope” intensifies, diversifies grammatically

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:

Nopeman
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.

know your meme dog bath nope

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:

*

walking octopus nope gif

*

giant spider evacuate earth nope gif

*

Other nope-based reaction gifs feature a rabbit, dog, bearded dragon, badger, spider, gorilla, Muppets, llama, Anna Paquin, SpongeBob SquarePants, and other animated figures. There’s a lot of them.

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.

Verb:

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.

Adjective:

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.

Interjection:

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.

Proper noun:

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

Noun:

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.

Compounds:

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.
allmynopes.jpg
Nopely nopent noping spider
It’s moving because NOPE
abso-fucking-nopely
The morning dew really accents the nopeness on this Nope Bush.

Because NOPE is an example of the because X construction I looked at last year.

lamprey nope because nope meme

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.

Team Fortress 2 engineer nope meme

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.

imgur - a whole lotta nope - spider jump

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.

Update:

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.

121 Responses to “Nope” intensifies, diversifies grammatically

  1. J.P. Mercado says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this article!

    “Nope” appears to be one of the most versatile words of Internetspeak. And also one of the most amusing!

  2. […] A word undergoing comparable change is nope. Its metamorphosis over the last few years has in some w… […]

  3. astraya says:

    In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign featured a poster with the one-word slogan ‘Hope’. Very soon after the 2012 election, there appeared posters of Mitt Romney and the word ‘Nope’.

  4. Stan Carey says:

    J.P.: Thanks! Yes, it’s extremely versatile, which makes me think at least some of the new usages will spread beyond their current communities.

    David: That was probably inevitable. It’s very much the traditional, colloquial, sometimes emphatic nope rather than any of the new usages.

  5. wisewebwoman says:

    I’ve heard a younger one say: “There’s all kinds of nope in that.”

    Very interesting post.

    XO
    WWW

  6. astraya says:

    Because I spend most of most of my days with English as a second language speakers, I don’t get to here many native-speaker innovations in language, and the native speakers I cyber-interact with tend not to use these forms either.

  7. Stan Carey says:

    WWW: That’s a good line! I don’t think I had heard these new usages offline before, but a few people I know have tried them out since reading this post.

    David: It was just from browsing Imgur that I encountered this innovation. I sometimes hear new usages spoken by my sister, who’s in her 20s, but these novel nopes hadn’t broached her radar. And though I see a lot of linguistic innovation on Twitter, I haven’t noticed the nopes from the people I follow there either.

  8. Bridget says:

    I have to say, as a youngish person on the internet, I love “nope” gifs. They haven’t gotten old for me yet, but I’m sure they will eventually.

    What I love even more, though, is a linguistic examination of internet memes. Boy, if I was back in college, you better bet I would have written a linguistics thesis on internet memes.

  9. Matt Ferri says:

    Great article, Stan. I couldn’t help but share it with a few friends. I just discovered the blog, but you can bet that I’ll be browsing the whole catalogue in the days to come. :)

  10. […] wonderful tribute to the grammatical diversification of “nope”, by Stan Carey […]

  11. jwarveteran says:

    Nope, nawl, and no all begin with the letter N but their tones are very different

  12. segmation says:

    Doesn’t NOPE stand for network operations engineer ???

  13. Obviously, “internet speak” is similar to ebonics in the sense that it is almost a watered-down version of the English language. Internet-Speak is slowly taking our everyday words and using them in differet senses to aquire a newer conotation than was previously illustrated in the “common-language”, for lack of a better analogy.

    • Stan Carey says:

      lastminutequestion: Not so, and I have to take issue with your reference to ebonics. The word is a bit misleading and politicised, so I tend to use the more-or-less-synonymous AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) instead. AAVE is a fully formed dialect (or set of dialects) with its own internally consistent grammar. Far from being “almost a watered-down version” of English, it’s just as functional and expressive as standard English. For a summary of the issue, see ‘Language that dare not speak its name‘ by Geoffrey Pullum, and for further reading see John Rickford’s articles on the subject.

      Internet speak may be “slowly taking our everyday words and using them in different senses” – but so is every other living variety of English. And many online usages that may seem superficially inarticulate are very deliberately so, for communicative effect.

  14. rjreitinger says:

    For some reason..I’m laughing so hard

  15. lifeassirli says:

    that picture made me laugh :D

  16. joshuapyott says:

    What a smart dog 😄

  17. maria says:

    great article! :-)

  18. Hey it looks like my dog

  19. the picture… just makes me laugh so hard :)))

  20. Wait!!! I’m still getting used to the transition from ‘No’ to ‘Nope’…. :-P

  21. I can’t believe that some slang words are making it into the dicitionary. It makes me cringe

  22. ralphamsden says:

    The reason I like it is because it’s so instinctual. It reminds me of how my kids rejected certain foods when they were toddlers- you put it in the vicinity of their face and they shudder, lean back, shake their head from side to side and the word “no” forcefully flies out of their mouths like it was slingshotted by their souls.

    The breakdown of uses of “nope” as a noun will have me rolling all day long. Thanks for this.

  23. Ashley says:

    Wow! Enjoyed reading about language experimentation and play. Great article!

  24. mehakcyrus says:

    How about nope!

    Haha, this is amazing!

  25. Noooo!!! I don’t want to take a bath!

  26. rjreitinger says:

    Reblogged this on sentencedtoread and commented:
    Incredible fun.

  27. Now you are making me feel out of it. I haven’t heard of the “Nope” phenomena, but sometimes it feels like last month “Epic” was a common and trendy shorthand for “fail big time”.

  28. I had to read your article from 6 feet away due to all the spider pictures. My eyeballs are stuck like this now.

  29. I feel like I get smarter all the time. I’ve noped already.

  30. Reblogged this on Human Relationships and commented:
    Never give up!

  31. Interesting evilution in todays terms and entertiainment

  32. Funny! I never realized what a versaitile word Nope is. Thanks for schooling.

  33. doomsday911 says:

    Nope can be minipulated to fit most reasons i agree

  34. dishaseta says:

    Very very good dogyyy

  35. Lamar Romero says:

    The phrase comes from the cartoon Archer

  36. Joseph V DeMartino says:

    Great article. It just goes to show how versatile language can be. Though I have to say that with any amount of observation one will notice the almost convulsive permutations language has been going through of late. I suppose that as our world becomes more and more data driven, this type of mutation process becomes inevitable as we rely on words to express more and more varied situations. Or maybe we have all fallen into a Dadaist nightmare world. This remains to be seen.

  37. Hahahaha so Funny! 😂

  38. itsjess says:

    Oh my goodness. HAHA! You’re hilarious! This is so witty and funny. I loved this!

  39. LOL, I hope you are teaching English in the public school system! ;)

  40. divamover says:

    I am so in Word Nerd Heaven now.

  41. most original blog post award (I need to read more of your blog to see if it’s a whole-blog award). What’s the opposite of Nopity?

  42. Learned something new today…. Had no idea the intricacies of nope… It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.. Perhaps i’ll infuse it into my every day grammar…. Nope..

  43. Stan Carey says:

    Thank you all for the kind comments, and sorry to anyone troubled by the spider pictures. I just had to include one or two. As for the NOPE dog, I wish I knew more about it.

    Ralph: Yes, it’s very emphatic.

    itsjess: Glad you liked it. You take great photos.

    rickysdoctora: I almost went down the EFL route in my 20s (and qualified just in case), but took to writing/editing instead. Probably just as well. :-)

    Project Easier: Thank you! I think the opposite of nopity would be yupity or yepity.

  44. Bex Walton says:

    Haha this is spot on! Although i do find myself using the word ‘nope’ in some of the given contexts. Like when walking into a crowded room, exclaiming “nope” and walking straight back out. Great article!

  45. kaymerchant says:

    The evolution you have laid out was very clever and amusing! I loved this!

  46. Gag Me Later says:

    Interesting post. Thanks.

  47. I don’t do “nope” comments or post “nope” stuff – maybe because I am too stuck up – but I do remember thinking like that in some situations, when looking was just too painful, horrifying or simply disgusting. It doesn’t happen often, but it speaks volumes about culturally/linguistically influenced involuntary reactions, be they suppressed or not

  48. j35son says:

    Reblogged this on jessonrata and commented:
    nopenopenopenopenopenope

  49. sweett0187 says:

    Haha NOPE !!😂😂😂

  50. That dog is going to kill his owner while thier sleeping revenge of the dog!!

  51. Val says:

    This is great. My beat friend is an English major and she will enjoy!

  52. Dachsodis says:

    I really enjoyed your article, I was laughing hysterically during many parts of it! I get tickled by a lot of the internet slang terms and phrases floating around these days, and the use of “nope” is one of my favorites.

  53. あははは、お風呂嫌いなんだ!

    [Google Translate gives me: Haha, you’ve got the bath hate! —Stan]

  54. opmrwitt says:

    Very entertaining yet scholarly article, I learned something today #win

  55. Driftwood says:

    I live this post. I’m definitely gonna start using “nope” more.

  56. I laughed out loud when I saw this picture :)

  57. puppypawz232 says:

    Ha ha very funny i love dogs

  58. I really enjoyed this!

  59. runsonsyrup says:

    Nope article… FTW!

  60. I just heard my sister say: “so much nope”

    Great read by the way

  61. GGmadeit says:

    You didn’t have my favorite phrase from the Awesomely Luvvie blog. “Honey bunches of NOPE”

  62. Reblogged this on blockedletters and commented:
    So scientific. Be still, my heart. –L

  63. mattystamp says:

    Nope is a word highly used in my modern day language. Has anyone else noticed that thanks to me and my younger hooligans the word ‘are’ is disappearing?

    ‘We going to the pub?’ Not ‘Are we going to the pub’.
    ‘They together?’ Not ‘Are they together?’

  64. EmmyStone584 says:

    Reblogged this on emmystone584's Blog and commented:
    beautiful

  65. This is the funniest thing ever ! I love your writing

  66. Stan Carey says:

    Thank you all for reading and commenting. For once there’ve been no complaints at all about Young People’s Language Undermining Society, which is great to see. Maybe everyone has a soft spot for nope.

  67. Tippini says:

    Happy one of my favorite words as a kid id getting attention again. Now lets also see more of sike/psyche!

  68. True Mendicant says:

    I know it’s paranoid and unrealistic, but I have a fear that in the future we’ll all talk like Smurfs: “Aww, Smurf! That was the Smurfiest Smurf we’ve Smurfed in a long Smurfin’ time! Smurf yeah!” Very good article, by the way.

  69. tabbymarie says:

    Reblogged this on tabbymarie and commented:
    Nope!

  70. ponyboy123 says:

    Reblogged this on ponyboy123 and commented:
    Lol

  71. cutiepie1024 says:

    That is my dog they are so cute

  72. ajmase says:

    This article is so yup.

  73. brirpac says:

    I’ve been calling things ‘nope-situations’ for years. I like the word and how it gives you a popping sound.

  74. Dude, this cracked me up!!

  75. Reblogged this on Inklings Publication and commented:
    there shall be no bath :-)
    but seriously, what do you think about slang words and grammar?

  76. Joezilla says:

    XDDD!!! Seriously laughed a lot reading this article!!!! Explains a lot about using the power of “Nope”. Really amazing article. 10/10 nopes. XD

  77. Joezilla says:

    Reblogged this on jojorandomness and commented:
    Wow…. Learnt the power of “noping”. xD

  78. Great article! Didn’t really notice how people use the word “nope” that much untill after I read this.

  79. Caitlin says:

    I love ‘Nope.’ I love it a lot.

  80. legnaus says:

    geniiiaaal NOPE leus*.*

  81. janeeyrie says:

    I usually only see ‘nope’ in GIFs, memes (or whatever the correct word for them is), whereas I have friends from the USA that use ‘FTW’ or the full version in written conversation. I was reminded yesterday of an earlier phrase that fortunately bit the dust some fifteen years ago. It was ‘care factor?’ or ‘care factor? Zero.’ I suppose the current use of ‘nope’ will fall out of favour at some point in the near future, too.

  82. This is so funny! Loving it!

  83. imcdona says:

    Does anyone else find the word “nope” aggressive in certain contexts?

    Say for example you ask someone if they need a hand completing some task. In response to your question they reply with “nope” instead of “no”. Nope seems like a more in your face no.

    Is this just me or is “nope” aggressive?

    • Stan Carey says:

      It’s often more emphatic or decisive, partly on account of the stop consonant at the end. In certain contexts, spoken in a certain tone, it could be intended or perceived as aggressive.

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