Another Sunday has landed! And a beautiful, sunny, warm one it is too. Unusual for March, but we will take it!! So what shall we do today? How about clichés starting with ‘N’? Seems different! Here we go:
never never land: a utopian’s dreamland.Perhaps best known from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, in which he and the lost boys live in Never Land. But this phrase came from a real part of our world: Australia. In the late 19th century it was used to describe the uninhabited areas. Some regions in Australia, such as remote outback areas like the Northern Territory and Queensland are still known as the Never-Never. In 1908 a book was written about life in the Never-Never:
“Called the Never-Never, the Maluka loved to say, because they, who have lived in it and loved it Never-Never voluntarily leave it.”
Jeannie Gunn, We of the Never Never*
neither here nor there: not meaning much in the larger scheme of things. First recorded in 1583, this sixteenth century phrase perhaps came from an earlier time. The translation it was used in also included the phrase “as they say” connected to the cliché, indicating that it perhaps was a verbal part of the region before becoming part of our written language as well.
namby pamby-weak, wussy, and foolishly sentimental. Such an old-fashioned term, who doesn’t remember their grandfather saying that so and so was a namby pamby? From the 1700s, when a tutor of George I’s grandchildren began to write sentimental pap about said children. His contemporary poets, including Henry Carey, soon derided him for such efforts:
All ye poets of the age,
All ye witlings of the stage …
Namby-Pamby is your guide,
Albion’s joy, Hibernia’s pride.
Rhimy-pim’d on Missy Miss
From the navel to the knee;
That her father’s gracy grace
Might give him a placy place.
–Henry Carey, 1725*
never the twain shall meet: a difference between two ideas or people that has no possibility of uniting. Twain comes from the word ‘twegan‘, meaning ‘two’ in Old English. It seems likely that Rudyard Kipling invented this phrase, as he has the earliest version of it in print, writing about the differences between England and its Indian colony:
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
Barrack-room ballads, 1892*