The Inflected Right

Eric D. Wiesen Mar 07, 2012 Back to blog


You know how, like, pretty much everyone, like makes fun of teenage girls for like, always talking like this? 

Valley Girl

Have you noticed that people in tech do almost the exact same thing, but with a different linguistic crutch? Consider the following made-up exchange:

A: So you know, right, there’s no way that Google can catch us. They just don’t get product, right?

B: Yep! Think about Google Wave, right?

Over the past year or so I’ve noticed an extraordinary amount of “inflected right”popping up in the discussions among entrepreneurs, VC’s and other people in and around tech. People pepper their dialog with the word right, typically at the beginning or end of phrases. I’ve been in meetings where, like “um” with a person who struggles with articulation, it’s astonishingly common once you start listening for it. Pay attention during your next two or three conversations with people in tech who you don’t really know – I’ll bet at least one of them uses this crutch a few times and probably much more than that. 

What’s the purpose of this? It’s essentially an “um” for tech. Valley girls (do they still have those?) started saying “like” instead of “um” – I have no idea why, really. But I think in tech the inflected right is a way to use the pauses inside of sentences as a way to sound self-confident (arrogant if you prefer), as if one is semi-implicitly coopting the listener into one’s point of view.

“Those guys are killing it, right?” – I assert that a company is doing well, and I assume that you agree with me and self-confirm with my inflected right. Now it is kind of difficult for you to disagree without it being awkward. 

It’s clearly a relatively trivial quibble, but I think it actually foreshadows some of what’s happening in our ecosystem. Words matter and speech matters, and theinflected right is subtle evidence of groupthink and conclusory thinking. Also, it’s annoying.

Lastly, I know that I sometimes do it. So if you catch me using the inflected right, bust my chops for it. Because it’s annoying when I do it too.