Many people have been confused by the Ναι and Όχι they are seeing on posters leading up to the Greek referendum. The Όχι looks a lot like ‘Oui’, the French word for ‘yes’, while the ‘Ναι’ starts with an ‘n’, which in European languages is commonly associated with negatives like ‘no’ or the German ‘nein’.

In Greek it’s the other way round. Ναι means ‘yes’ and Όχι means ‘no’.

Greece isn’t the only source of linguistic confusion — Irish Gaelic has no words for ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Instead, one has to answer the question by repeating the verb, adding a negative to express ‘no’ or without a negative to express ‘yes’. This is the same thing that happens in Latin.

So how do you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Europe’s official languages?


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Author: Donald Armbrecht writes for the World Economic Forum’s Agenda.

Image: A referendum campaign poster that reads ‘Yes (Nai)’ is seen on a bus stop with a graffiti that reads ‘No (Oxi)’ on it in Athens, Greece. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann