8 Old-Timey Ways to Say ‘No Way’
By Angela Tung
Feeling over committed? Need a better way to say "no"? Aside from using “don’t" instead of “can’t,” here are eight fun and old-timey ways you can say, “No way.”
1. NOT IN THESE TROUSERS
The next time you want to say, “Certainly not!” you can say, “Not in these trousers!” The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) of this British English saying is from 1920 in Realities of War by Philip Gibbs: “‘Come up and have a look, Jack,’ he said to one of the blue-jackets. ‘Not in these trousers, old mate!’ said that young man.”
2. NOT ON YOUR TINTYPE
A slightly older U.S. colloquialism—the OED’s earliest record is from 1900—World Wide Words says not on your tintype originated when tintype photography was popular and is based on the 18th century phrase, not on your life.
3. NOT ON YOUR NELLY
Not on your Nelly is a shortened version of Not on your Nelly Duff. According to The Virtual Linguist, Nelly Duff is Cockney rhyming slang for puff, which in this context means “life” or “span of life.” The blogger also mentions another puff phrase, in (all) one's (born) puff, which is chiefly used in negative contexts and means “in a person's experience, in all a person's life.” So why does puff mean “life”? Presumably because it also means “breath.” Not on your Nelly Duff is from 1941, according to the OED, while Not on your Nelly is from 1959.
4. NEVER A FIG
This idiom meaning “not at all” is from the 16th century. Back then, according to the OED, figs were equated with anything “small, valueless, or contemptible,” hence other figgy expressions such as not giving or caring a fig about something. Giving the fig, on the other hand, is a disdainful gesture that resembles the U.S.-centric "I got your nose!" The OED says another name for the gesture is fig of Spain, which also refers to a poisoned fig used to destroy an obnoxious person. Which came first, the insulting hand signal or the toxic fruit, isn't clear.
Aikona can mean “no, not any, not” and can also be used as an emphatic “certainly not,” “never,” and “no way!” It’s a South African colloquialism and comes from Fanakalo, a lingua franca developed and used by mining companies in Southern Africa. Fanakalo is composed of elements from Nguni languages, English, and Afrikaans.
Nixie is another “Certainly not!” variation you might want to add to your vocabulary. A blend of nix, meaning “not possibly, not at all,” and the suffix -y, its earliest usage in the OED is from 1886.
7. ON (AT) THE GREEK CALENDS
If you prefer to stump people, you can say, “On the Greek calends” when you mean “never.” The OED says it’s “humorous” because the ancient Greeks didn’t use a calends—that is, a first of the month—in how they tracked time. Hilarious! The phrase originated around 1649: “That Gold, Plate, and all Silver given to the Mint-House in these late Troubles, shall be paid at the Greek Kalends.”
8. NOT IN A WEEK OF SUNDAYS
A week of Sundays is, of course, seven Sundays, or seven weeks, and therefore a long or undetermined length of time. If you want to be extra emphatic about saying “Never!” you can also use, “Not in a month of Sundays,” which is a really long, seemingly endless amount of time.