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I seem to remember there is an interjection used by children when they have something another kid doesn't as a way to make them jealous: it's something along the lines of nuh-nuh-nah-nuh-nah said in a singy-songy voice. Might remember wrong, but my question is: if there is a way to say this (again, I'm thinking of something children use), what would it be?

An example: one kid gets a present, the other doesn't, what kind of sound does the kid with the present make?

Mostly interested in American English, but all answers welcome.

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In the 1950s and early 1960s, Charles Schultz, the cartoonist responsible for the Peanuts strip, used to draw characters (especially Lucy and Violet) sticking their tongues out and saying "Nyaah!" For example, a strip from August 2, 1965, runs as follows:

Frame 1: Lucy sticks out her tongue and says "Nyaah!" while Violet sticks out her tongue and says "Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah!"

Frame 2: Violet walks away with a crabby look on her face [no speech or thought bubble].

Frame 3: Violet encounters Charlie Brown and says "And Nyaah to you too!"

Frame 4: Charlie Brown, by himself, says "This is a tough neighborhood. You never know when you're going to get hit with a stray 'Nyaah'!"

In southern Texas (Corpus Christi and Houston), in roughly the same time period (early and mid-1960s), I can remember hearing other children chant, in a sing-song voice, "Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah!" with the emphasis on the fourth "Nyaah!" The point of the expression was more often than not to express the idea "I have something that you don't," but it could also be used in other situations to indicate scorn, mockery, or malice.


Much later, in their 1982 single "I Know What Boys Like," the Waitresses offer an updated version of "Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah! Nyaah!" (at 1:58 and again at 2:55 of the video), but their rendition isn't nearly as syncopated as the real-life version I remember from my childhood.

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    Great! Here is another example from Oxford Dictionary – haha Feb 2 '16 at 0:29
  • Just wondering what Bruce Wayne as a kid would have said!.. NA NA NA NA NA NA ... obvious I guess! ;) – BiscuitBoy Feb 2 '16 at 6:10
  • @BiscuitBoy: But only the TV version of Bruce Wayne. – Sven Yargs Feb 2 '16 at 6:11
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ner ner ner ner ner!

ner

(slang, childish) An interjection generally used when gloating about a perceived cause of humiliation or inferiority for the person being addressed, often when disagreeing with a statement considered incorrect or irrelevant.

You're wrong, so ner!

I don't care what you think, so ner!

I've got more candy than you. Ner ner ner ner ner!

Derived term: ner ner ner ner ner

Emphatic form of ner — pronounced /nɜː nɜː nə nɜː nɜː/ and sung or spoken with the rhythm: crotchet, dotted quaver, semiquaver, crotchet, crotchet. Spelling is not canonical; alternatives are ner ner na ner ner or ner ner ne ner ner.

Wiktionary

  • In my part of the US it was usually six syllables /'nænᵻ'nænᵻ'næ'næ/, with the tones in the interval relationships G G E A G E. I've also seen versions from other parts of the country written "neener neener neener". – StoneyB Feb 1 '16 at 23:42
  • @StoneyB In France it's "nana[na]nère" forum.wordreference.com/threads/nananère.35451/?hl=fr – Elian Feb 1 '16 at 23:46
  • I can't find the precise link (his Norton lectures are long), but I am sure Leonard Bernstein referred specifically to this childhood taunt pointing out not only that it is found in many different cultures but also that its rhythm and pitch pattern is also international. – Dan Feb 2 '16 at 0:02
  • That would make a nice master's thesis for somebody. And oh, yes, where I come from the rhythm was 6/8: crotchet quaver crotchet quaver dotted-crotchet dotted-crotchet. – StoneyB Feb 2 '16 at 0:04

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