Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah

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The nyah-nyah tune features a descending minor third. About this soundPlay 

"Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" is the lexigraphic representation of a common children's chant. It is a rendering of one common vocalization for a six-note musical figure[note 1] which is associated with children, is found in many European-derived cultures and is often used in taunting.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


"Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" is seen particularly in the eastern United States and modern Britain.[citation needed] There are many other vocalizations for the tune, as well as other ways of rendering the nyah-nyah version (such as "Nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh").[7] Other manifestations include:

  • "Nanny nanny boo boo", "Na-na na-na boo-boo", or "Neener neener neener" in the United States[8][9]
  • "Du kan ikke fange mig" in Denmark (meaning "You can't catch me")[citation needed]
  • "Na na na na nère" (also "nanananère") in France[10]
  • "Naa na na naa na" in the Netherlands[citation needed]
  • "Na-na-na banana" in Israel (meaning "mint (and) banna")[citation needed]
  • "Läl-läl-läl-läl lie-ru" (a taunt) or "Et saa mua kiinni" in Finland (meaning "You can't catch me")
  • "Skvallerbytta bing bång" (meaning "Tattletale ding dong")[11] or "Du kan inte ta mig" in Sweden (meaning "You can't catch me")[citation needed]
  • "Ædda bædda buse" in Norway
  • "Lero lero" in Mexico

The tune is also heard in Canada, Australia, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Scotland, Poland, and Iceland.[citation needed] Children in Korea use a different figure for teasing, la-so-la-so mi-re-mi-re with the vocalization 얼레리 꼴레리 (eol-re-ri kkol-re-ri)[citation needed] while a Japanese variant is so-so-mi-mi so-mi-mi[citation needed] and in Mexico a so-la-so-mi, so-la-so-mi figure is found.[citation needed]

The initial taunt is sometimes followed by further verses using the same tune, for instance in America "Nanny nanny nanny goat, cannot catch a billy goat" or following "Nanny nanny boo boo" with "Stick your head in doo-doo". French children might follow "Na na na na nère" with "Pouette pouette camembert". In Croatia, children sing "Ulovi me, ulovi me, kupit ću ti novine. Novine su skupe, poljubi me u dupe" (which means: "Catch me, catch me, [if you do that] I'll buy you a newspaper. Newspapers are pricey, kiss my tushie").[citation needed]

While the word "nyah" is now defined as being in and of itself an expression of contemptuous superiority over another, this is by derivation from the "nyah-nyah..." chant rather than vice versa[12] so the "nyah-nyah..." vocalization version of the chant is, at least in origin, an example of communication entirely by paralanguage.[7] Context-meaningful words are sometimes applied ad hoc, though, such as "Johnny is a sis-sy" or "I can see your underwear!"[4] Shirley Jackson referred to it as the "da da, da-da da" or "I know a secret" chant in Life Among the Savages.[13]

Other uses[edit]

Non-taunting uses are also seen, also associated with children. One tune for Ring a Ring o' Roses (which is sung to many variant tunes) uses the "Nyah nyah..." musical figure;[6] a common tune for Bye, baby Bunting uses a similar figure,[2][5][6] and one for Olly olly in free does also.[1]

Benjamin Britten used the figure in his 1946 opera The Rape of Lucretia for a scene where the Roman and Etruscan generals mock each other.[2]

This chant is used in Wario World as the music for the pause screen, performed by the title character Wario.

The melodic figure of this chant is incorporated in the beginning of the chorus melody of the song That’s What You Get by Paramore.

The melodic figure of this chant is a recurring motif in Phineas and Ferb that plays when Candace attempts to “bust” her brothers to their mom.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sometimes five-note, with the first two notes combined as one long note ("Nyaaahh nyah nyah nyah nyah") or other variations, such as the third note shortened or the fifth note stressed in volume, intonation, or duration, and so forth.


  1. ^ a b Leonard Bernstein (1983). "Musical Phonology", lecture 1 of The Unanswered Question lecture series (Lecture). Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Event occurs at 27:00. Retrieved August 29, 2016. Research seems to indicate that this exact constellation of two notes [descending minor third], and its three-note variant, is the same all over the world, wherever children tease each other, on every continent and in every culture. In short, we may have here a clear case of a musical-linguistic universal., cited at Patrick Metzger (August 29, 2016). "The Millennial Whoop: The Simple Melodic Sequence That's Showing Up All Over Contemporary Pop". Browbeat (Slate's Culture Blog). Slate. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Albright, Daniel (1999). Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts. University Of Chicago Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0226012544. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  3. ^ Tsur, Reuven (1992). What Makes Sound Patterns Expressive?: The Poetic Mode of Speech Perception. Sound & Meaning: The Roman Jakobson Series in Linguistics and Poetics. Duke University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0822311704. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "A Feeling for Harmony: The 3-Semester Music Theory Course for Earlham College – Chapter 1E - Pentatonic Scale". Earlham College. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  5. ^ a b John Wells (July 18, 2011). "Nuh-nuh (2)". John Wells’s Phonetic Blog. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c John Wells (July 25, 2011). "Nuh-nuh (3)". John Wells’s Phonetic Blog. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  7. ^ a b John Wells (July 15, 2011). "Nuh-nuh". John Wells’s Phonetic Blog. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  8. ^ Helgeland, Anne; Lund, Ingrid (2016). "Children's Voices on Bullying in Kindergarten" (PDF). Early Childhood Education Journal. 45 (1): 133–141. doi:10.1007/s10643-016-0784-z. hdl:11250/2429746.
  9. ^ https://www.networkworld.com/article/2313025/is-storage-archiving-child-s-play-.html
  10. ^ Fagyal, Zsuzsanna (March 1999). "Combien de clichés mélodiques? révision de l'inventaire des contours intonatifs stylisés en français". Faits de Langues (in French). 7 (13): 17–25. doi:10.3406/flang.1999.1234. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  11. ^ Lindström, Fredrik (November 2007). "Gammalt adelsprat" (in Swedish). Språktidningen. Retrieved 6 May 2018. Hon skriver bolet, ’bordet’, fälas, ’färdas’ och gålen, ’gården’. Den sistnämnda formen är odödliggjord i den här ramsan: ”Skvallerbytta Bing-bong/går i alla gålar/slickar alla skålar”; det är alltså inget nödrim!
  12. ^ "Definition of nyah in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  13. ^ Shirley Jackson, Life Among the Savages. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1963.

Further reading[edit]

  • Liberman, Mark Yoffe (1978). The Intonational System of English (Dissertation). Indiana University Linguistics Club. OCLC 910372009.