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In Arabic (Specifically, north-western Levantine), there's a saying that goes like

He drilled my head about/with that lunch meeting (بخشلي راسي باجتماع الغدا)

Which means something along the lines of

He kept insisting on/talking about/remind me of/bringing up that lunch meeting

It can be used in situations where your girlfriend wants you to take her out somewhere and she keeps reminding you about it everyday, when your kid keeps asking for a new bike everyday, or when your boss keeps bringing up that report you have due next Monday.

The saying doesn't carry the connotation of negligence reluctance on behalf of the person on the receiving end. The person might or might not be working on fulfilling his promise or adhering to the other party's wishes.

Many times I find myself in such situations and I really need something to use. I often use the direct translation as written in the first example.

Is there an equivalent for that in English?

The closest thing I was able to think of was "nagging", but it doesn't convey how strongly I feel about the situation.

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Nagging was the first thing to come to my mind; could you please clarify what's unsatisfactory about it? –  Bradd Szonye Mar 11 at 10:59
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"Drill into someone's head" is an English expression that Arabic had borrowed/imported. It is already an expression used in English ever since there had been drills. –  Blessed Geek Mar 11 at 13:45
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"Drill into someone's head" has a slightly different meaning in English - it's more about making someone learn or remember (e.g. old-fashioned school teaching), and any implied frustration is typically from the person with the teaching role towards the person who won't learn without endless repetition. This is asking for a stronger way of getting across the frustration of being excessively nagged, esp to do (not learn) something. edit - Just noticed kaviseigel already posted about this below –  user568458 Mar 11 at 13:53
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"Nagging" is a fairly strong and pretty derogatory term in English. It's not the kind of thing that you would want your boss or your spouse to hear you say about them. –  RBarryYoung Mar 11 at 14:39
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Having read only the title before reading the question, my first thought was along the lines of "trepanation"/"trephination". Never mind, nothing to see here, carry on! –  shoover Mar 12 at 21:45

33 Answers 33

up vote 11 down vote accepted

A very common American English expression is beat over the head.

He beat me over the head about that lunch meeting.

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I've been in the US my whole life (mid-Atlantic) and I've actually never heard this phrase used this way (although if I did hear it I would probably be able to figure it out through context). –  Jason C Mar 11 at 23:07
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Now that I think about it I have heard this phrase, but to mean something more along the lines of "rubbing it in", or yelling at somebody for a mistake (especially revealing a mistake when a person thought they either didn't make one, or got away with it). Almost always in context of failure. I did find one reference to its definition (see example). Weird though, I wonder why I seem to be in a bubble of not hearing this phrase that much. –  Jason C Mar 12 at 17:37

At @ermanen 's suggestion, I will promote this suggestion from a comment:

to harp on about something is to continually refer to that thing to an annoying degree.

There's a discussion here: http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1544 about the origin of the phrase suggesting it originally alluded to playing the same string (on a harp) monotonously.

to bang on probably derives from a similar musical metaphor.

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Harp on and bang on are both good - but also simply "go on about it". (Or "go on and on" for something stronger.) –  starsplusplus Mar 12 at 15:22

Also, wouldn't drop the subject.

Or even, a less polite, wouldn't shut up about it.

They both mean about what you've said.

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Similar, colloquial: "[Bob] keeps banging on about [that lunchtime meeting]". Particularly if it's someone giving you grief about something that happened in the past. (quite common expression in UK, don't know about elsewhere) –  user568458 Mar 11 at 13:47
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"keep harping on about" works the same. –  Neil Mar 11 at 13:52
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@Neil: I think you should write that as an answer because that is the best one so far. It is an idiom also. –  ermanen Mar 11 at 14:22

Perhaps to pester?

Which, according to Collins dictionary word definition, comes quite close to nagging, meaning: to annoy or nag continually

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I was going to post nagging +1 –  Cruncher Mar 11 at 15:52

Colloquially, you could use:

Chewed my ear off.

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I think this is generally related to talking too much. It does not connote repeating and insisting on the same thing. –  ermanen Mar 11 at 14:11
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@ermanen it would if you added about: chewed my ear off about his kids for example. –  terdon Mar 11 at 15:38
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@terdon: In my opinion, still does not count. It can still mean talking too much about kids but not repeating the same thing about the kids. Well, you can mean that in the context as well but there are better answers that fits to the definition. –  ermanen Mar 11 at 16:28

Here a a couple more:

1) Badger

to harass or urge persistently; pester; nag: I had to badger him into coming with us. (dictionary.com)

2) sounding like a broken record

someone or something that annoyingly repeats itself, as a vinyl record with a scratch (dictionary.com)

Example:

You are starting to sound like a broken record.

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"Badger" doesn't fit: it mostly means to make persistent and irritating demands, not just to repeatedly bring up the same subject. You can badger somebody to repay money they owe you, but not badger them about your team beating their team in the match last week. –  David Richerby Mar 11 at 15:15
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IMO, given the context of the OP, badger is quite appropriate. –  Vector Mar 12 at 23:14

Another common colloquial phrase that seems to mean the same thing is "Wouldn't let it go."

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"Pecking my head" == nagging or pestering, especially in an irritating continuous manner.

I'm having some trouble finding a decent definition or good sources for this phrase, but it's common slang especially around Manchester in the North of the UK.

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Probably the best equivalent is "grilled". Saying "He grilled me about that meeting" would be a standard English way of saying the person (who presumably wasn't there) was peppering you with questions in a very one-sided effort to get information out of you. It doesn't imply you were cooperative with providing information, nor does it imply you were uncooperative. It does imply the person didn't really care which it was.

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I was thinking "grilled" as well, although it may be a bit too neutral for the OPs tastes (at least, the way I use it it doesn't necessarily imply that the event was an annoyance or a negative experience). –  Jason C Mar 11 at 22:55
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"Grilling" only applies to repeated requests for information, which isn't a scenario mentioned in the question. For example, constantly reminding somebody that they performed badly in some situation wouldn't be grilling. –  David Richerby Mar 12 at 11:25
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Definitely NOT grilled. To grill is to ask (demand) repeatedly for information, in a harsh or unfriendly manner. –  Phil Perry Mar 12 at 20:20

The literal translation of that is a phrase I've used and have heard tossed around before..

He drilled it into my head at lunch

or

The teacher drilled this equation into my head

I suppose that means more of taught, or causing memorization instead of the nagging you're describing, which is slightly more negative.

Depending on what he was saying at lunch:

  • He harassed me about it over lunch (or teased)
  • She continually insisted we go out to that expensive French place
  • The kid has been campaigning for this new video game for weeks now
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"To hound" (verb), as in, "he kept hounding me about that project he wanted done"?

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I think the English saying that comes close is beating a dead horse.

So you would use this to say:

Mark kept going and going. We already told him we weren't interested but he kept beating a dead horse.

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Normally, beating a dead horse has the implication that the one-sided discussion is pointless because the situation is already decided (generally on the opposite side of the case being argued.) I don't see that connotation in the idiom in the question. –  Beska Mar 11 at 17:04
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I also agree that "beating a dead horse" isn't really appropriate. It generally refers to past events that cannot be changed, especially where "should have" can be used (e.g. continuously criticizing something for something they already did) rather than potential future events (e.g. continuously asking for a bicycle). A more appropriate usage for the bicycle example would be if a child wanted a specific bicycle that he saw in a store but the father did not purchase it and the opportunity passed (think "should have" bought the bicycle), yet the child continued to pine over it. –  Jason C Mar 11 at 23:03

How about bending my ear.

I don't know how widely this colloquialism is used, but it certainly matches your specifications.

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Australian slang also allows for "pissing in my ear" - which is the same thing, but when it's annoying for the listener (as well as being a fun phrase). –  Beejamin Mar 11 at 22:51
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I have never heard this phrase in American English; is this a common phrase in the UK (I see references to it in British English on the internet)? –  Jason C Mar 11 at 23:06
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I've heard it used (and use it occasionally myself) here in the UK. It definitely does NOT mean ranting in my experience. It's more a "can I have a quick word?" type phrase with the implication that it'll be a lot longer than just a quick word. –  Grhm Mar 12 at 10:12
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I'd largely concur with @Grhm. It's a phrase I've heard and used occasionally in the UK, more so in my youth (1960's, 70's). The connotation is usually a "telling off" and may in some way be related to pulling someone forcibly to one side by grabbing their ear prior to giving the telling off. I's say it's more typically a one-off event than a "banging on" that the OP was after. –  Cheeseminer Mar 12 at 10:34

I'd suggest:

banging on about

or

going on about

E.g your girlfriend keeps banging on about taking her out somewhere, or your kid keeps going on about a new bike.

But these tend to have a connotation that the person is harping on about something that they shouldn't - the message has been received, and they ought to stop haranguing you about it. I'm not sure it works quite as well with the boss/report example - even if you're doing all you can to get the report done.

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Americans don't use it much (yet?), but in recent decades Brits have become increasingly fond of...

"You're doing my head in [always asking for that new bike!]"

Where in my vernacular, that "supplementary clause" would probably be phrased as "...keep banging on about that new bike". It's important to note that the usage is extremely "slangy", and dismissive of the person you're accusing of bothering you. It's certainly not an appropriate thing to say to the boss at work who keeps asking you for an overdue report (unless you want a new job! :)

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@comeAndGo: Cambridge Advanced says UK/AU informal. "Vulgar" is a broad definition, which can include saying toilet or loo instead of lavatory. But it's a relatively rare new usage in AmE, so I expect mostly it doesn't have much of a classification apart from being something those coarse Aussies say when they're not effing and blinding. –  FumbleFingers Mar 13 at 0:46

She was getting on your nerves. After searching for that online for a reference.

http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/get-on-(one's)-nerves

Turned up. Which mentions bug.

She was bugging you. If she was using real bugs this would itch a lot. Maybe not as bad as drilling your head but still uncomfortable.

The thesaurus helps in finding stronger alternatives.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/bugging http://thesaurus.com/browse/bugging

I'd select vex, chafe, abrade or pester as strongly worded alternatives.

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The terms "riding" and "off my back" and "on my back" come to mind.

e.g. If my wife was constantly telling me or asking me to get the taxes done I might say to her "Quit riding me about the taxes!" or "Get off my back about the taxes!" or "You're always on my back about the taxes!"

I might complain to someone else about her, saying "She keeps riding me about the taxes!" or "She won't get off my back!" or "She's always on my back to do the taxes!"

However, these phrases would not usually be used when speaking to a child, in my opinion. Nagging or pestering, as previously mentioned, would be fairly strong and common words for your scenario to use with adults and children.

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He kept harping on that lunch meeting.

He wouldn't let that lunch meeting go.

He refused to drop the lunch meeting.

He kept going on and on about that lunch meeting.

He kept grilling me about that lunch meeting.

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How about: He got on my nerves with this lunch meeting? I'm not a native speaker, but this seems to me the easiest way :)

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Nobody has mentioned my personal favourite:

Giving me earache

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He kept dredging up that lunch meeting.

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How about the simple and possibly less exciting term "Going on about", as in:

He kept going on about that lunch meeting.

Or the slightly more exasperated:

He kept going on and on about that lunch meeting.
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In some circumstances, 'harangued' would work.

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How about "rambled on (and on)"?

Of course, that would be for the idea of one session of such "drilling". It doesn't convey that there would be/have been more than one session of such.

For that, you would want to use "keeps rambling on and on about".

Hope that helps.

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Or “droned on (and on)” when tedious/repetitive/boring. –  Emmet Mar 11 at 19:47

A close equivalent is the Englssh idiom "Put a bug in your ear" - meaning to remind or scold as unpleasantly as having an insect in the ear would be.

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I do like the phrase

He rabbited on about

According to this it comes from 'rabbit and pork' which is English rhyming slang for 'talk'.

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@comeAndGo Cockney rhyming slang. Look it up, you will find some pretty amusing examples! –  David M Mar 12 at 23:22

I heard ripping one's ears off.

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This answer could be more helpful if you tell us more about why you think this is a good alternative. For example, you could explain what the phrase means and provide an example of how to use it. –  aedia λ Mar 11 at 18:04

Pounding or Pummeling are often used colloquialisms (at least in NE USA) for such a thing - as if to say pounding with questions:

  He kept pounding (or pummeling) me about that lunch meeting.
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One phrase that I've heard sometimes is "He drilled me about..." and it has the connotations of pestering someone with questions and discussions about something. That was the phrase that popped into my head since it is similar to "Drilled my head about..."

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He has a bee in his bonnet about that lunch meeting.

The "bee in his bonnet" idiom implies that he talks about that meeting to everyone, whether or not they are interested in that meeting. It implies that at least some people are not as obsessed with that meeting as he is.

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