Noping Out

keep-calm-and-nope“I love how that goat just nopes out of that situation.” And I love the ring of a newly hatched bit of slang that hasn’t even received its Urban Dictionary definition yet. Here, at its inception, nopes out doesn’t yet sound juvenile to me, or evasive, or overused, or imprecise; it hasn’t yet earned any of the pejoratives that purists may hurl its way if and when it becomes as widespread in the language as amazeballs or totes. Rather, it describes a quick series of actions that seem to have been waiting for some streetwise Adam to name them. The goat (or whoever) takes a look at the situation, processes a quick “Nope” in her brain, and exits as fast as possible.

I’ve been in that situation. Just didn’t have the phrase for it yet. The stirring of nopes out came to me in an email from my editor quoting a tweet citing another tweet referencing this cartoon:


Other instances of nopes out include an unreferenced scene from the sitcom Seinfeld in which Kramer sees something he wants no part of; he checks the sidewalk around him to see if he’s been spotted, then takes off in his characteristic Bugs Bunny lope around the corner. The scene is a dead ringer for my son’s behavior, 15 years ago, when his baseball went through our neighbor’s window and he looked quickly around before dropping his bat and tearing off down the sidewalk. (Where he thought he was going, given that I’d witnessed him from our kitchen window, is unclear. But the spur to his flying heels was definitely the notion of “Nope, not me, not here!”)

If I were a gambling woman, I’d lay odds on nopes out as a front-runner for slang ubiquity in the next two years or so. First, Nope has risen dramatically over one generation, enjoying almost three times the usage now as it did in 1980. Second, the 10-second video clip favored by Internet sites practically begs for a phrase that will neatly describe the series of feints and moves involved in, well, noping out. Third, the trend toward verbification (Google, weird, sex up) isn’t slowing down. Finally, it’s a delightful phrase. It feels good to say it. Try it the next time you see someone allowing their dog to soil the neighbor’s lawn, after which they fumble for a nonexistent refuse bag, check quickly for judgmental bystanders, then drag the offending pooch rapidly down the sidewalk as if nothing has happened. What a nope out!

Now that I’ve become attached to the phrase, though, I’m already one of its defenders, an early protector of the parameters of its meaning. I fully intend to disapprove of the use of nopes out to indicate simple declining, like the juror who refuses to convict. It will not, in my presence, substitute for no-show, which is an entirely different form of evasion. Nor may it be used to signify other abdications of responsibility, like the committee member who votes Present or the registered voter who stays home from the midterms. The subject must encounter the situation, process Nope, and get out. That’s the deal. Why? Because I said so.

Let’s see how far this gets me, shall we?

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