Title: Yeah, Nah!: A celebration of life and the words that make us who we are

Author: William McInnes

Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2023

William McInnes is one of Australia’s most popular and well-known writers and actors.  He began his writing career with his memoir A Man’s Got to Have a Hobby.  In 2012 his book, co-written with his wife, Sarah Watt, Worse Things Happen at Sea, was named the best non-fiction title in the ABIA and Indie Book Awards.  He now has a dozen books to his name.

His acting credits include leading roles in Blue Healers, Sea Change, Total Control and The Newsreader.  He has won two Logies and two AFI/AACTA Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.  William now lives in Melbourne after spending his formative years in Queensland.

Language is an important identifier of culture and community and William McInnes looks into the changes in the language of Australia.  This entertaining read is part memoir – a nostalgic look at expressions used in his childhood, his parents’ time and through to the present day.  The book consists of 11 chapters each examining a particular ‘time’, the language used and developed and McInnes’s thoughts and memories.  He begins with Simpler Times and Unprecedented Times (memory inducing for all of us).  He looks at Sporting Times and ends with Calling Time.  Occasionally, I thought he had lost his way but he always neatly brought it back at the conclusion of the chapter.

It becomes part manifesto in chapters like Men of Their Time where he and a best mate devise a list to guide young men in their early to mid-twenties, including their sons, on how to be a ‘good bloke’ and, I must say, if the young men of my acquaintance followed the list they would be on the right track.

William McInnes on his favourite Australianisms

@ ABC australia

McInnes is a wonderful storyteller with an insight into the human condition.  The book has some laugh-out-loud moments and a lot of quiet chuckles and smiles while still getting his point across.  As an example, a former girlfriend dumped him because he surfed like Herman Munster from a TV series in the 1960s.  Being of a similar age, I could really identify with a lot of his reminiscences.  When there was some lingo I hadn’t come across (he did grow up in a different state to me) he explains these terms neatly and succinctly. 

I would recommend this book for middle to older generations for the remembrance of a time past and the reminder that the world has moved on and so has our language.  However, it is still relevant for younger readers for some inside information into a previous time and proof that Australia is still a living language after giving the world “selfie”.  Yeah, Nah! is a particularly Australian term and I think is worth an unequivocal Yeah.  Read it in one sitting or dip into it a chapter at a time.  Make the time even if you’re flat out like a lizard drinking.  You won’t be sorry.

Reviewed by: Marian Chivers, January, 2024

Ballarat Writers Inc Book Review Group

Review copy provided by the publisher.

  • Marian Chivers is a retired librarian with a lifelong interest in reading, writing and language with her work and study involving books from children’s literature to postgraduate studies.