A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Eric Partridge; Paul Beale | Go to book overview

N

N.A.B.U.

See: T.A.B.U.


N.B.G.

No bloody good: C20. This affords a useful example of that phenomenon whereby, although the full phrase has not achieved the status of c.p., the abbr. has done so.


N.C.

A fairly common abbr. of no comment.


N.C.A.W.W.A.S.B.E.

See TOMMY HANDLEY, and ta-ta


N.C.D.

See: no can do.


N.F.L.

See: welcome to the.


Naafi-breaks

. See: I'll be laughing.


NAAFI suppers

. See: I've had more. nail(s). See: another nail; chews nails; couldn't drive; steal; up your tail.


name

. See: all that the n.; and his n.; any publicity; bullet; I never remember; I'll forget; if I have the n.; if you can n.; it had my n.; make yer n.; no name; take his n.; that's the n.; what a ghastly; what is your; what was; when yer n.; who's that; wire up; you name; and:


name of the game-the

, implies 'the precise meaning of which is-' and 'not to beat about the bush, the word is-': orig. US, but not at all gen. before c. 1965; Leechman in late 1968 glossed its Can. usage thus: The name of the game is murder-for instance. Very recent.' It did not become Brit, until 1973. In American fiction, I have noticed that Stanley Elliot uses it in Stronghold, 1974. In the Daily Telegraph, 7 Aug. 1975, David Holloway, reviewing Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, says, 'Mr Newman protests properly about the use of “the name of the game”'; and, one day earlier, P.B. had written, 'I feel that it's a newish c.p., probably originating in sports journalism. It annoys me because it's one of the smug and “knowing” ones.'

The particular sense noted above has widened to 'the predominant factor-the true purpose, the plan, the crux' and various nuances thereof, e.g. 'what is really, not what is apparently, happening'.

It had been recorded for, and in, 1971; W & F, 1976, define it as the prec. para. But in the US, 'There is an early example (1962) in “Multiplication”, a song recorded by actor-singer Bobby Darin. The lyric began: “Multiplication, that's the name of the game,/And each generation does it just the same”' (Janssen, 1977). So we can safely date its orig. at 1961.


name your poison

! What will you drink?: joc. invitation, in UK from the 1920s but by late 1970s virtually †; in US, current late C19-early 20 (J.W.C., 1977). 'I suggest an origin in the Wild West, perhaps reflecting the Temperance Movement slogan, “Alcohol is poison”. Of course it is, but what a wonderful way to go!' (R.C., 1978). Note also:


name yours! and give it a name

! What'll you drink? (Water is honourably excluded.) Both: late C19-20; but rare after 1940. (See Lyell, a too little known book, pub'd in the Far East.)

Talking of what'll…; when I was a post-graduate at Oxford in 1921-3, my College had a small drinking club, which called itself 'the What'lling Club'.


Nannie

. See: not on your N.


Nanny Goat Lancers

. See: charge of the N.


Napoleon's greeting to his troops: Good morning, troops

. John Brophy, in 'Chants and Sayings', Appendix A of B & P, 1930, says: The headlong descent from the heroic strain was another form of stock humour. As, imitating a reciter's announcement of the title of his “piece”:

Napoleon's Greeting to his Troops-

“Good morning, troops.”'

The c.p. apparently dates from late C19 and became † c. 1940.


napoo finee

. No more-finished!: army: 1914-18. A tautologic-al elab. of napoo, nothing more, no more, and finee, finished: Fr. il n'y en a plus, fini, lit., 'there's no more of it, finished'. The British soldier dealt no less heroically with foreign languages than he did with the enemy.

Of napoo, B & P write: 'The word came to be used for all the destructions, obliterations and disappointments of war, e.g. “The bread's napoo”; “The S.M.'s [Sergeant-Major's] napoo”; “Napoo rum”.'


nappies

. See: go and get your mother.


napping

. See: as Moss caught.


nark

. See: I'll nark.


Nash (usu. Mr Nash) is concerned

was an underworld c.p. of late C18-mid C19 and it meant that So-and-So had departed, or, as Vaux, professional criminal sent to Australia for his country's good, wrote as an exiled convict, 'Speaking of a person who is gone, they [his underworld companions] say, he is nashed.' Here, Nash or nash derives from the Romany nash, nasher, to run.


nasturtiums

. See: are you casting.


nasty

. See: cheap and n.; common; rough as; soft as shit; something n.


natives are restless (to-night)-the.

A var. of the next, this c.p. vaguely alludes to the unrest of the emergent African and Asian peoples, but is also used in ref. to unfriendly audiences, whether of theatre or vaudeville, of radio or TV-or of political gatherings. It has spread to the US. In John Crosby, The White Telephone, 1974, we see: 'He [a not entirely apocryphal President] picked up the phone. “The natives are getting restless, ” said Miss Doll' [about some second-echelon Federal men].

Perhaps from the restless natives of the North-West Frontier of India during British rule; perhaps, too, it owes something to Rudyard Kipling's tales of India. R.C. remarks, 1978, that it 'originated long before the emergence of “the Third World”-from various films about pukka sahibs drinking sundowners on the veranda. Cf “Those drums, Carruthers, those damned drums!”'

'Also used humorously in the Gin-and-Jaguar Belt [the

-212-

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A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Introduction to the First Edition x
  • Modifications of the Original Introduction xii
  • Acknowledgments to the First Edition xiv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvi
  • Acknowledgments to the Second Edition xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • A 1
  • B 25
  • C 42
  • D 60
  • E 79
  • F 85
  • G 96
  • H 114
  • I 136
  • J 178
  • K 181
  • L 186
  • M 200
  • N 212
  • O 228
  • P 240
  • Q 251
  • R 253
  • S 261
  • T 289
  • U 323
  • V 326
  • W 328
  • X 360
  • Y 361
  • Z 384
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