Susan Cooper

deborah deborah at
Tue Nov 4 18:22:49 EST 2003

On Tue, 4 Nov 2003 minnow at wrote:
|Incidentally and thinking of insults, has anyone got a source for the now
|unusable "nig-nog"?  As far as I know it had nothing whatever to do with
|"nigger", but was a Northern English dialect insult.  It wasn't about
|skin-colour when I was a child, just meant someone who was mean and
|Scroogely and piffling.  I'd love to know if there's any bookish evidence.
|"Nig" turns up in the 1811 *Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue* as the
|clippings from the edge of coins, which would fit, but of course the S.O.D.
|is above such slang, and doesn't have ning-nong either, which in my youth
|meant "twerp" or "nitwit" (and is now also assumed to be racist.  *sigh*)

>From the OED, it looks like it may have had a harmless origin, but did
in fact merge into a new usage of the N-word:

nig-nog, n.1  NEW EDITION:
draft entry Sept. 2003
slang (usu. mildly derogatory).

    A new or unskilled recruit; a novice; a foolish or naive person. Cf.
    NING-NONG n.

 P. Beale in Partridge's Dict. Slang (ed. 8, 1984) 792/2 suggests that
 the word was found in army contexts in the sense .fool. from the late
 19th cent. and in the sense .raw recruit. from c1925, although
 documentary evidence is not given.

 It is possible that there may be a connection with the Nig-Nog
 children's clubs run by many local newspapers in the 1930s, themselves
 following the model of the children's page of a Birmingham newspaper:

     1929 Evening Dispatch (Birmingham) 1 Nov. 9/3 My Dear Children, I
     am sure you must be getting awfully excited..about becoming members
     of the Children's Ring...The girls will be called .Nigs. and the
     boys will be called .Nogs.  and if any of you are twins there will
     be a special name for you. You will be called .Nig-Nogs.! 1929
     Evening Dispatch (Birmingham) 5 Nov. 9/1 After Uncle Ernest and
     I..talked yesterday, we came to a decision, and we made up our
     minds that you should all be called Nignogs, so that there will not
     be any distinction at all between girls and boys.]

nig-nog, n.2 (and a.)  NEW EDITION:
draft entry Sept. 2003
slang (derogatory and offensive).

Brit. /ngng/, U.S. /ngng/  [A reduplication with vowel variation of NIG
n.3, perh. by association with NIG-NOG n.1 (cf. P. Beale Partridge's
Dict. Slang (ed. 8, 1984) s.v.). Cf. slightly earlier NOGGY n.]

    A black or dark-skinned person. Also attrib. or as adj.

"You do not have to do everything disagreeable that you have a
right to do." 		-- Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

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