"aye" & "nay"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jihuang, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. jihuang New Member

    Taiwan Chinese
    Under what circumstances, do you use the word"aye" or "nay"?
    Are the two words common in a daily conversation? Or can they only be used in a very formal occasion, like a meeting?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English

    In my experience they are very uncommon and old-fashioned. Even in a standard meeting, they would not be used. The only I time I recall hearing them is during sessions of parliament. Experiences in other parts of the English-speaking world could always vary, of course.
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    In the UK, I understand that the House of Commons divides into ayes and noes (those that support the proposal against those that do not). Otherwise, I only know aye as a widespread dialectal alternative to yes (common in Yorkshire but also other places).
  4. sorry66

    sorry66 Senior Member

    English, England
    They say 'aye' a lot in Scotland. 'Nay' is less frequent. I remember people saying 'nay lass'.
  5. Teafrog

    Teafrog Senior Member

    UK English (& rusty French…)
    First things first: A big and warm welcome to the forum, Jihuang :)

    They are, on the whole, archaic terms, (origin = Old Norse, from ancient Scandinavia).

    These two terms are still in everyday use in Northern Britain, and used extensively in Scotland (for example: “it will take months, nay years”). See here for aye, and here for nay. Both terms are still used in the British Parliament, as Gwan said. Here is something else you might like to know, and mean obviously the same thing ;)
  6. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    Oh yeah, how could I forget the Scots?
  7. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    "Aye" is also used in parts of Ireland.

    "Aye Aye, sir" is also the correct reply to an order in the Navy.
  8. Michael_Boy Member

    They were used all the time in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean:)
  9. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    I come from the NW of England and use nay every day. I tend to use it for emphasis and also because the vowel is a bit longer than no it gives me a chance to think what I am going to say next. There's also a lovely word naysayer - someone who never welcomes anybody's suggestions and tends to be persistently negative.
  10. jihuang New Member

    Taiwan Chinese
    Thanks for your answer. Aside from dictionaries, you are good helpers!

  11. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Aye is used by people in Northern Ireland and Scotland, otherwise it is never said.
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    In AE, "aye" is still used when taking a formal voice vote on an issue. In daily conversation, though, I can't say that I've ever heard it unless it's "Talk Like A Pirate Day." :)
  13. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    Nay, tha's barking up the wrong tree lad! Thousdands of people in N England use this daily.
  14. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Really? Well maybe that's because they're close to Scotland, I've never heard English people use aye before.
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    This is one of the best lessons to be learned at WRF: the difference between "it is never said" and "I have never heard." :)
  16. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    ^^I stand corrected!
  17. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I think it's fair to say that "aye" and "nay" are not peculiarly Scottish, but were, not so very long ago, universally used in the British Isles, and were in fact standard. Usage now survives in Scotland, Ireland and pockets of England (not sure about English-speaking Wales). It seems that the further one gets from London the more it is heard, but of course there is one of those "pockets" in the Houses of Parliament, in the heart of London ;)

    I use "aye" when I lapse into Yorkshire (reasonably often), but have never used "nay". In my "pocket" of Yorkshire, "nay" was only heard from old people, and that was when I was a young mole. However, even 10 miles away from where I lived, the situation may have been different. English is quite a patchwork quilt of accents and dialects, some of which govern quite tiny areas.
  18. elephas

    elephas Member

    Seattle, WA, US
    USA, Russian, English

    "Yes" and "no" work fine, is there any specific reason not to use what always works no matter what, in any situation, with any audience? With "yeah", "yay", "aye", "nay", "nah" etc, as you may conclude from reading this thread, you are venturing in a fuzzy domain of colloquialisms, dialects, emotionally charged hues, archaic forms -- they won't add anything valuable to your ability to communicate; the more standard the language, the less trouble, especially in formal circumstances, especially in business.
  19. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    It is still quite common to hear a vote taken at a meeting, including a business meeting, instituted by the following phrase: "All in favor say 'aye.'" It has become more of a ceremonial use of the word. I wouldn't say, though, that "yes" in response to this call for a vote would be "standard language" in that setting. In fact, it would stick out pretty clearly among the other answers of "aye." :)

    As a converstional word in AE, at least, I agree that it could be confusing or even silly. There are still situations, though, where it is the expected response and that's worth knowing, in my opinion.

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