‘Hey nonny nonny’ is a curious little phrase found in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. The character Balthasar sings a song to the ladies in which he recommends that instead of worrying about what the men are up to, they should convert their sighs of despair into ‘hey nonny nonny’.
The phrase ‘Hey nonny nonny’ has no direct translation into modern English, but is understood from the context that it could be taken to mean a dismissal of circumstances as we do today with expressions like “whatever”, “what the heck?” or “that’s life”, or simply refer to general merry-making.
As such, it is a phrase that can be safely used in circumstances where less appropriate responses cannot be uttered. In my experience, expressing one’s umbrage using Shakespearean quotations is almost as satisfying as actually swearing anyway. There is something remarkably cathartic about speaking in Elizabethan English, although that will likely never be understood by anyone who does not appreciate and enjoy the language as I do.
I have decided to add “hey nonny nonny” into my repertoire as a worthy companion exclamation to my renowned-among-those-who-know-me question, “What manner of nitwittery shall plague me on the morrow?”
In writing this post, however, I’ve come to one realisation: I will have to teach my devices that I intend to type “hey sonny sonny” or “hey nanny nanny” about as much as I ever mean to type “oh shot”.
Hey, nonny nonny. They’ll learn.
2 thoughts on “Hey nonny nonny”
I had to laugh. Last week I sang with a small a cappella group a selection of doo wop songs from the 1950s-60s for a festival celebrating the filming of the movie Stand By Me. One of the songs, Sh’boom, begins, “Hey nonny ding dong, a lang a lang a lang.” Our director thought the lyrics quite strange. They sounded Shakespearean to me, but I couldn’t identify it specifically. Thanks for this!
I remember the movie version of this play from the 90s started with a nice rendition of Balthasar’s song. This is a good phrase, though I guess I’ll just keep cursing to myself instead.