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  • Ilinca Stroe

Romanian Verbal Mannerisms - Why Do We Say "Nu-mi spune!"?

This humorous yet pragmatic series of posts focuses on verbal mannerisms in contemporary Romanian to give you the bigger picture of where they might come from, why they seem to be popular with Romanians today, and how exactly they might come in handy to you, too.

Having looked into “hai, pa!” last time, let’s now puzzle over “nu-mi spune!...” Used quite often by generation X (aka pre-millennial) Romanians, this slippery-as-an-eel and baffling-as-a-platypus little phrase has got nothing to do with the straightforwardness of “hai, pa!” Instead, it feeds greedily on the subtleties and intricacies of its putative matrix: that knotty-plotty ¡Ay, no me digas! of Latin American telenovela.

It certainly means feeling - the wider spectrum. To read it right, the key lies in A) the proper intonation, and B) the interjection. With ¡Ay, no me digas! despair looms large; ¡Huy, no me digas! brightens up to surprise, only to broaden into a sarcastic grin with ¡Anda, no me digas! In Romanian, if pushed hard, the phrase can even basically say, “tell me more!” by saying “don’t tell me more!” But let’s see exactly how this chasm of opposing meanings is bridged.

Ominous (or otherwise reproving) disbelief/surprise: “No way!”

Mara says, “Ghici cine-a câştigat meciul.” (Guess who won the match.)

John says, “Aoleu, nu-mi spune că Chelsea iar a luat bătaie!...” (No way Chelsea got beaten again!...)

John says, “Am făcut clătite, vrei?” (I made pancakes, want some?)

Mara says, “Aoleu, nu-mi spune de clătite! Sunt la cură!... (No way I want some! I’m dieting.)

Lara says, “Gata, am semnat petiţia.” (Right, I’ve signed the petition.)

Mara says, “Vai, nu-mi spune că şi tu eşti pentru eutanasierea câinilor vagabonzi!...” (No way you too are for euthanising stray dogs!...)

Threatening (or not) sarcasm: “You don’t say!”

Grandpa says, “Timpul trece. Şi nu se mai întoarce.” (Time goes by. And never comes back.)

Grandma says, “Ei, nu spune! Asta e de notat!...” (You don’t say! Somebody should take that down…)

Rică says, “La anul o să fiu bogat!” (Next year I’ll be rich!)

Radu says, “Ei, nu spune! Îţi moare unchiul bogat din Florida?” (You don’t say! What’s up, is your rich uncle from Florida dying?)

Rică says, “Scuze, am pierdut autobuzul.” (Sorry, I missed the bus.)

Rică’s boss says, “Vaaaai, nu-mi spune! De-aia ai întârziat 3 ore?” (You don’t say! That’s why you’re 3 hours late?)

Gossipista-style: “Oh really?”

Mara says, “John l-a implorat pe Mark să-mi zică să-l sun.” (John begged Mark to tell me to call him.)

Lara says, “Aoleu, nu-mi spune! Şi l-ai sunat?” (Oh really? And have you called him?)

John says, “Ioneasca de la 2 a luat în gazdă un student.” (The Ionescu woman on the 2nd floor let out a room to an undergrad.)

Rică says, “Nu-mi spune!... Dar câţi ani are tânărul?” (Oh really? And how old is the young man?)

Mara says, “Aseară m-am văzut cu John. Ocazie specială…” (Last night I went on a special date with John…)

Lara says, “Nu-mi spune!... Zi tot!” (Oh really? Spill the beans!)

And so, as our eventful lives unfold, the versatile little phrase allows wonderment, jest and perhaps some social-gluing theatricality to have their say in it. For what is life without a tiny bit of drama? Nu-mi spune!...

Romanian Verbal Mannerisms

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