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Where does "Yeah right" come from? Can it be used in a formal writing? If not, what is a good alternative?

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possible duplicate of "Yes", "Yeah", "Yep" –  kiamlaluno Feb 3 '11 at 15:17
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@kiamlaluno - I think this one is different. See @Robusto's answer below. –  b.roth Feb 3 '11 at 15:23
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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"Yeah, right!" is an example of irony. Irony is the use of a word or phrase to mean exactly the opposite of its literal sense. Here it would also qualify as sarcasm. It would be understood to mean "No f@$*ing way!"

You would definitely not use it in formal writing, unless that composition was a treatise on slang or some other academic discourse on language.

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Nice answer. But is it always irony though? Sometimes I say "yeah, right!" when I genuinely meant to agree with something that the other person said. Can I be misinterpreted? –  Ivo Rossi Feb 3 '11 at 15:21
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Yes, a lot would depend on intonation. But if you detect any sarcasm at all — and that is a very subjective thing, involving tone of voice, facial expression, etc. — it is most likely being used in the negative sense. –  Robusto Feb 3 '11 at 15:36
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There's also a joke (that as far as I know can be applied to other languages as well with similar constructions; the Greek equivalent «Ναι, καλά» comes to mind for some strange reason :) where the teacher explains that there are times and languages where a double-negative has positive meaning ("Can't say I didn't see you") or it can keep a negative meaning ("Haven't done nothin!"), but there is no known case of a double-positive having a negative meaning, at which point the smart-alec of the class says:

“Yeah, right.”

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+1 I loved that joke - glad you put it in here :-) –  Gary Rowe Feb 14 '11 at 13:30
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Alternative in formal writing could be

I strongly disbelieve that statement

or

Our company plans to take over facebook medio 2011

You: "That sounds inconceivable"

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Yeah, right

could also be interpreted as another variation of

I know, right?

It entirely depends on inflection when speaking. When written, if the ending punctuation is an exclamation

Yeah, right!

you could infer the meaning to be ironic, whereas if the ending punctuation was a question mark

Yeah, right?

you could infer the acceptance-seeking meaning.

Regardless, neither is appropriate for formal writing.

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