'Maybe' and other British words that mean 'no'

THE English language is rich, varied and blessed with 4,000 passive-aggressive synonyms for the word ‘no’. These are just a few: 


Both noun and an adverb and means ‘no’ either way. Commonly employed by parents, for example: ‘maybe we could get you a drum kit in a couple of years, if you’re good, maybe.’ Also used by partners while considering the latest sexual innovation you’d like to try.


Less a word, more a murmer of indifference which directly translates as ‘not f**king likely’. Often said by someone scrunching up their face in revulsion during situations where a flat ‘no’ is socially unacceptable. You’ll recognise it from first dates.

‘I’ll think about it’

They’ve already thought about it and the answer is no, but they’re too polite, cowardly or professional to say so. Bosses use this when you ask for a pay rise so you’ll forget it and move on. It’s been four years and you haven’t forgotten, not that you deserve one.

‘Could do’

The ‘no’ of choice for indecisive girlfriends. That nice Chinese place round the corner? Could do. Or the Indian joint by Waitrose? Could do. Domino’s? Could do. When you find yourself trapped in this cycle, ask them if they’d like to continue the relationship. You’ll get the same response.

‘Yeah no’

A brutal, whiplash-inducing piece of linguistic chicanery. The positive only there to affirm the negative, to offer hope before crushing it, to leave you in no doubt as to the speaker’s blanket dismissal.

‘I’d love to’ 

The most remorseless, humiliating ‘no’ of them all, detected only in retrospect by eager men whose texts go unanswered. Will secretly hope it means ‘yes’ until their dying days.

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Do you judge mums on their phones when they could be playing with their kids, or should you f**k off?

DO you begrudge mothers a quick glance at Instagram while their small children are happily occupied or are you not a judgemental twat? Find out:

You’re at a playground sitting on a bench. Do you:

A) Have a cursory glance round for obvious dangers then check your 52 unread work emails.
B) Tut at mothers browsing their phones for missing out on the joys of parenthood before realising your kid is cying on the roundabout and now you look negligent.

You are at a soft play, bored out of your mind. Do you:

A) Fire up Facebook like everyone else. It’s ok to admit that toddlers can be f**king dull.
B) Hover around the edges, applauding wildly each time your son comes down the slide, unaware that you’re disturbing other mums having their first adult conversation all day.

You’re in the queue at a supermarket. Do you:

A) Give your phone to your child to distract them from demanding Tic-Tacs and a Vienetta.
B) Explain to your tantruming child that phones are not toys and she should use her imagination while the queue behind you sighs.

You’re at your child’s swimming lesson. Do you:

A) Perch on the edge of the pool, engrossed in Dostoyevsky on Kindle. The swimming teacher has full responsibility for your child and you’re going to enjoy it.
B) Yes you’re on your phone, but only to time your son’s laps while you shout encouragement. Everyone hopes you drop your shiny Samsung in.

You’re at the school gates with five minutes to spare. Do you:

A) Finish your online shop, check the weather forecast and arrange a piss-up with the School Mums WhatsApp group.
B) Pointedly not go on your phone. Wonder why nobody ever talks to you.


Mostly As: You are a normal parent with a busy life and the whole world, accessed via phone, is occasionally more important and interesting than a four-year-old.

Mostly Bs: You are an overcritical arsehole. Even your own toddlers wish you’d get into Wordle.