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 '14 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 '14 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 – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 11 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 21:45

33 Answers 33


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 '14 at 23:07
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    @JasonC How odd; lived in the same region (almost) my whole life, and I’ve heard it plenty of times. – KRyan Mar 12 '14 at 12:17
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    Yes, I grew up in the mid-West and mid-Atlantic and have heard it frequently. Also in books, TV, movies. – AbraCadaver Mar 12 '14 at 14:34
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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 '14 at 17:37
  • NE USA : I hear it often. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:12

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 '14 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) – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 11 '14 at 13:47
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    "keep harping on about" works the same. – Neil W Mar 11 '14 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 '14 at 14:22
  • "banging on", and to a lesser extent "harping on", are British usage. They're almost unknown in the US ("banging on" has more of a sexual connotation). – Phil Perry Mar 12 '14 at 20:22
  • "running one's mouth about" or "ramble about", "be on one's case about", "hassle/ badger/ nag/ pester someone about" might work – Daniel Jul 28 '18 at 7:49

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 '14 at 15:52
  • I think this word is strong enough to be used by one about to develop a headache as a result of being constantly nagged. – binki Mar 11 '14 at 16:56

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)


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 '14 at 15:15
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    IMO, given the context of the OP, badger is quite appropriate. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:14

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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 16:28
  • I'll side with ermanen and terdon on this one. Chewing one's ear off involves talking incessantly about a topic, but does not imply the nagging reminder that drilling describes. – Robert Rapplean May 4 '17 at 18:05

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


"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.

  • As a British native speaker who grew up within 40 miles of Manchester, I've never heard "pecking my head". This suggests it may be very localized to Manchester or rather recent. – David Richerby Mar 12 '14 at 11:28
  • I grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire; about 30 miles north of Manchester and this phrase was well known there. – StuartQ Mar 12 '14 at 12:43
  • @DavidRicherby I'd also say this in Liverpool. – Danny Beckett Mar 14 '14 at 3:36
  • To be more precise, my 40 miles was to the east, in West Yorkshire. Must be a Lanky thing! – David Richerby Mar 14 '14 at 7:44

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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 20:20
  • Inappropriate, as explained. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:17
  • In UK usage "grilled" doesn't necessarily imply repetition - just intensive, difficult questioning. For example "I saw a great interview on Newsnight last night, the host Paxman gave that politician a real grilling" – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 13 '14 at 10:34

How about bending my ear.

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

  • I'm not sure that Wiktionary definition is correct. I thought that phrase meant “get your attention,” as in “May I bend your ear with this idea I have?” – Bradd Szonye Mar 11 '14 at 22:14
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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 '14 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 '14 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. – user16282 Mar 12 '14 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 '14 at 10:34

"To hound" (verb), as in, "he kept hounding me about that project he wanted done"?


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 '14 at 17:04
  • Given your definition @Beska it is right on target. They don't want to hear anymore because they have already decided (for or against). Either way (even for) they don't want to keep hearing the same points - beating a dead horse. If they haven't decided then you are open for discussion. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 11 '14 at 17:32
  • I disagree. The original question doesn't say anything about the situation being resolved in the listener's mind one way or the other or at all. The listener may or may not be decided, and the situation, in particular may be unresolved. This is not the case with "beating a dead horse". – Beska Mar 11 '14 at 17:39
  • @Beska - I use this phrase exactly how the user describes. Sorry if you think different. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 11 '14 at 18:02
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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 '14 at 23:03

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


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
  • "Drilled into me", from military style drills where you do something over and over until you can do it with your eyes closed. – Phil Perry Mar 11 '14 at 13:31

I'd suggest:

banging on about


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.

  • "Banging on" not so much in American English, but "going on" is common and seems like a more global safe bet. Also in AE, "rattling on". Still, all of these seem milder than what the OP is looking for, to me they suggest "background noise" that is mostly ignored/dismissed rather than something that is actively irritating the listener. – Jason C Mar 13 '14 at 2:37

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! :)

  • I was going to say "Kept banging on about ..." but I'm not sure if that's too much of a UK-centric colloquialism. – user16282 Mar 12 '14 at 9:10
  • @Grhm: Yeah - definitely our vernacular (British). The "prevalence" values in NGrams are at least 5 times higher on the UK corpus than the US one. And doubtless the US ones will include their editions of Harry Potter books, for example - which I'd bet are bound to include the expression several times. – FumbleFingers Mar 12 '14 at 12:35
  • -1 - borderline vulgar. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:15
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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 '14 at 0:46
  • @FumbleFingers - I said "borderline" - it's crude slang - sounds like high school lingo - not something a refined person would generally use, particularly in a public/business context. – Vector Mar 13 '14 at 1:16

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


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.

  • IMO bug is excellent. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:19

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.


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.


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 :)

  • "He got on my nerves during the lunch meeting." - This would make more sense if you were speaking to someone. – Blake Mar 11 '14 at 14:39
  • as I understood, its not during the meeting, but talking about it – Fraggles Mar 11 '14 at 14:41
  • You would still use "He got" vs "He went" – Blake Mar 11 '14 at 14:50
  • ah okay, sorry didnt saw that :) – Fraggles Mar 11 '14 at 14:51
  • He "got on my tits" is a similar one, indicating annoyance with the other person, but I wouldn't suggest using it. It seems to be a phrase that is used exclusively by males. – Spehro Pefhany Mar 11 '14 at 15:51

Nobody has mentioned my personal favourite:

Giving me earache


He kept dredging up that lunch meeting.

  • In what sense? Dredging is the act of digging at the bottom of a river or harbor. You don't dredge up as a stand alone. You can dredge up a topic, bad memories, etc. Perhaps you meant drudging up? Making a drudgery of the meeting. – David M Mar 12 '14 at 18:13
  • As you said, he kept dredging up the topic, the topic being the lunch meeting, or anything else the listener would prefer to leave alone, like the mud on the river bottom. – kmarsh Mar 12 '14 at 19:05
  • I guess I didn't parse it that way. – David M Mar 12 '14 at 23:19

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.

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 '14 at 19:47
  • Rambling/droning on implies talking in a long-winded way; the question seems to be asking about repeatedly bringing up the subject. If I talk to you for 20 minutes about something, I'm rambling/droning on; if I talk to you about it 20 times a day, I'm ________. – David Richerby Mar 12 '14 at 11:30
  • Rambling (also droning/going/banging/rattling/etc.) all seem milder than what the OP is looking for, to me they suggest "background noise" that is mostly ignored, or met with dismissive eye-rolling, rather than something that is actively irritating the listener. – Jason C Mar 13 '14 at 2:40

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.


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'.

  • Apparently colloquial British English - never heard it used in the USA. Perhaps explain this... – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:07
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    @comeAndGo Cockney rhyming slang. Look it up, you will find some pretty amusing examples! – David M Mar 12 '14 at 23:22
  • @DavidM - I'm certain I would... :) Cockney is one of my favorite "dialects" - that and "Brooklynese", my mother tongue... – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:29
  • @comeAndGo Brooklynese is literally mine, too. My mother and father are both from Brooklyn. Although, my father, in a bid to improve his business-credibility spent years losing his accent. And, hence I was raised (on Long Island) with a very nondescript accent. – David M Mar 12 '14 at 23:35
  • in a bid to improve his business-credibility - ROFLMAO Luckily I am in a business where it doesn't matter! Actually, I see he did source rabbited with that link. – Vector Mar 12 '14 at 23:37

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.


In some circumstances, 'harangued' would work.

  • We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – Skooba Jul 28 '18 at 15:50

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 '14 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.

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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