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Thread: no can do?

  1. #1
    maliksaim is offline Newbie
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    Default no can do?

    What's the story behind the phrase 'no can do'? Like what's the history, where does it come from? It sure sounds stupid Maybe there is some logic that makes it sound less stupid?

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: no can do?

    There probably is- it's likely to be pidgin, where words and grammar from different languages mix when people have a need to communicate. I have head different versions of which languages are involved- Native American, Chinese, etc, but this sort of phrase is common in such situations- it's more practical than stupid and has crossed over into mainstream English, so it's quite a succcessful phrase.

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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: no can do?

    It comes from Hong Kong Pidgin (Business) English, as does Ketchup (kei= tomato; dzap= juice/paste).

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    maliksaim is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: no can do?

    I don't know much about languages at all but I can totally imagine it coming from Chinese or Korean people, those with not very good English skills. Thanks.

    I have realized I don't really understand the logic of another phrase as well: to hate someone's guts.

    Now in slang or informal language guts means determination or fortitude. In formal language its a biological section of human body. In this phrase, neither of those definitions make sense. Looking up the phrase shows that it just means hating some passionately. How come?

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: no can do?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    It comes from Hong Kong Pidgin (Business) English, as does Ketchup (kei= tomato; dzap= juice/paste).
    It's good to know that- I have heard that and US frontier pidgin as the sources of it and Long time, no see.
    It's hard to know when you don't speak the languages- ketchup, I have heard, comes to English via Malay- a Chinese loan word being reloaned.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: no can do?

    Quote Originally Posted by maliksaim View Post
    I don't know much about languages at all but I can totally imagine it coming from Chinese or Korean people, those with not very good English skills. Thanks.

    I have realized I don't really understand the logic of another phrase as well: to hate someone's guts.

    Now in slang or informal language guts means determination or fortitude. In formal language its a biological section of human body. In this phrase, neither of those definitions make sense. Looking up the phrase shows that it just means hating some passionately. How come?
    To me, it's physical and visceral and, therefore,an extreme hatred- the person's guts have done nothing against you, but they have kept the person alive, so hating them at that level is strong.

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