Are you nang?

The word nang was mentioned the other day on a programme about the Noughties on the BBC. It has apparently entered London slang, means ‘cool’ or ‘good’ and comes from the name of a Vietnamese kid at a school in Hackney, London (source).

Have you heard this word before?

What word(s) do you use for cool/good?

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Vietnamese, Words and phrases.

28 Responses to Are you nang?

  1. Lau says:

    A Scottish friend of mine always uses the word doss, which often confuses everyone else.

    In Finnish (and maybe even more so in Finland Swedish) the word kiva is used a lot.
    It means cool/good and comes from the time when Finland was Russian. It is an imitation of the way many Russians pronounced the Finnish word hyvä meaning good.

  2. Una says:

    I use the word class. I hadn’t thought about the word until lately, as I’m living in Eastern Ukraine, and I hear a very similar word used here in the same way. As a beginner in the Russian language I’m not sure if the word changes for different cases, but what I have heard is clasny – классный.

    I’m from the West of Ireland. I don’t know if it’s just my dialect, my generation or both, or if it’s used by general English speakers. Please enlighten me if you have a clue. I have wondered also if there’s a connection with the Russian/Ukrainian word.

    This site is really interesting – I’m glad I found you! Thanks!

  3. James C. says:

    In Tlingit the usual verb for good is yakʼéi (IPA /jakʼéː/). There’s another verb likoodzí (IPA /ɬikʰuːtsí/) which means something like “awesome”. There doesn’t seem to be a word with the slang meaning of “cool”, however.

  4. Dillon D says:

    An American slang word for cool/neat is ‘shweet’.

  5. Garrick W says:

    In English, I use mostly cool, sweet, nice and occasionally awesome or badass.

    In French I use cool, nice, malade, malade mental, and freak (long live anglicisms, unfortunately).

    In German, geil, toll… well, I’ve only lived in Germany for two and a half years, so I don’t know them all yet. But geil and toll are enough.

  6. formiko says:

    James C.: Axh éet xhatán. You speak Tlingit? x’egha yak’ei!

    Since I’m an old fart bag, I still say “Neat!” every now and then.

  7. Sam says:

    Dillon, surely the American word used is ‘sweet’, if pronounced differently?

    Simon, are you sure about that urbandictionary.com source? It’s interesting if it is true, but can’t surely be seen as totally reliable?

  8. Simon says:

    Sam – I’m not sure that the urban dictionary is a completely reliable source. The word is also mentioned in a survey of London English by researchers from Queen Mary’s College London, though they don’t mention its etymology.

  9. Macsen says:

    In Wales, south at least, people say ‘tidy’ for cool – ‘that’s tidy’. Don’t ask my why.

    Welsh would use a Welsh spelling to say cool – ‘cŵl’. Melys (sweet) is also another one.

  10. stormboy says:

    I first heard ‘nang’ used by my younger brother in London in the mid to late ’90s.

  11. Zachary says:

    I tend to use ‘fancy’, ‘intricate’, ‘awesome’, ‘kickass’, among quite a few others, occasionally “coo'” with the l pronounced more like [ʍ~w] or dropped entirely.

    In my French dialect, ‘malade’, ‘malade mental’, ‘mental’ and ‘super’ are among the more common ones. The terms ‘cool’ and especially ‘full/foul(e) cool’ are stigmatised since they strike people here as being too Québécois, while stuff like ‘génial’, ‘chouette’ and ‘brillant’ basically have the label France all over them.

  12. c. says:

    In Italy in general we say “fico” or “figo”. In Tuscany we also say “ganzo”. All these meaning are somewhat sex-related :D.
    fica/figa = the vagina.
    ganzo/ganza = the (secret?) lover of someone who is already in an official relationship.

    In other parts of Italy there are surely other nice words.

  13. Remd says:

    In European Spanish the most typical word for ‘cool’ is ‘guay’ although we often say things like ‘chulo’, ‘la polla’, ‘guapo’ (estar guapo instead of ser guapo and used for objects) and many others. However, when I was a child, my generation (and, as far as I know, only children in my town) used to say ‘perórtico’ which is supposed to come from ‘perita’ (which was also used) and I have always wondered if there are other people who use these words.

  14. Dillon D says:

    Sam-Yes, it is a…can’t really think of the word, a mutation of sorts of the word sweet. I really don’t know enough about the IPA to use it, but the ‘s’ sound becomes an ‘sh’ sound.

    Mainly used here in the US are: awesome, sweet (along with it’s sh counterpart), awesome, badass, cool. Bitchin’ was used a while back but I only know one person who uses this slang.

  15. Drabkikker says:

    In Dutch we have (varying in age): cool, chill, flex, super, gaaf (~’flawless’), tof (from Yiddish/Hebrew tov ‘good’), vet (‘greasy’), lauw (‘lukewarm’), te gek (‘too crazy’), gruwelijk (‘gruesome’), and a lot more, I’m sure.

    I love the pre-war American expression ‘swell!’, by the way. Is there anyone who still uses that?

  16. stormboy says:

    Brazilians (speaking Portuguese) use ‘legal’.

  17. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Neat, cool, nifty are the ones I typically use. “Awesome” is used around the US a lot, “bitchin'” and “rockin'” less. “Wicked” is recognized as specifically Boston-area slang.

    Subarashii is the closest Japanese equivalent I know. There are probably some Japanese slang equivalents that I don’t know.

  18. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Drabikker:

    I’m sorry to inform you that “swell” hasn’t been in wide circulation since the 1950s, as far as I know.

  19. Jeisuke says:

    I suppose in Japanese a few slang-type terms with the same/similar meanings would be
    1. Kakko-ii (for people)
    2. Suteki (for people, things)
    3. Saikou (for things, actions, people)
    4. Sugoi/Sugeh/Su-ngeh (for any situation)

    And you can add CHO- in front of each of these words for stonger emphasis. My son probably knows some that his classmates use and might view the above as being too dasai or jijikusai. I’ll ask him when I get home.

  20. Sam says:

    Wicked is definitely accepted and common in the UK, all over.

  21. Ryan says:

    Also in use in (my part of) the US are legit, bomb, and solid, at least among my fellow 18-24 year olds males. Dank seems popular with Californians (generally stoners).

  22. Tommy says:

    Here’s some more Japanese:

    すごい (sugoi), sometimes said as sugge! general “wow” moment, maybe?
    格好いい (kakkou ii), when someone looks cool/sharp/awesome, etc
    うける (ukeru), when something is funny/entertaining

  23. Drabkikker says:

    @ Petréa:

    So I feared. A great task lies before me! Then again, I haven’t been really successful in re-introducing the equally old-fashioned Dutch equivalent ‘puik’ either…

  24. MäcØSŸ says:

    The Italian for “cool” is “figo”, which is the masculine form of “figa” (Italian for “pussy”)

  25. Sandra says:

    @Zachary
    What you say is funny as in France, the more anglicisms you use, the cooler you are.
    So, French people of my age (thiryish) would use ‘cool’, ‘top’. With a little bit of French too like ‘trop bien ‘(‘too good’) or ‘truc de ouf’ (literally ‘thing of a madman’).
    ‘Ouf’ is quite interesting IMO as it is a typically (as far as I know) French linguistic phenomenon called ‘verlan’ (‘l’envers’ meaning ‘backwards’, here pronounced backwards) where you reverse the order of the syllables in a word: ‘fou’ (mad) becomes ‘ouf’, ‘femme’ (woman) turns into ‘meuf’, ‘flic’ (slang for ‘cop’) into ‘feuk’ and so on.

  26. Tommy says:

    Sandra – do people actually use “verlan” in common everyday informal speech, or is it just a concept that exists and is found in some artistic form?

  27. Sandra says:

    “‘flic’ (slang for ‘cop’) into ‘feuk’ ” Ouch, typo. it was ‘flic’ into ‘keuf’, of course.
    @ Tommy
    Yes, people really use verlan everyday. Not in every word or every sentence, as it is a little out of fashion, and it would be considered “too much” to use it as a system. But one word here and there, definitely. I don’t think I know anyone under forty (outside of a convent or a classroom) who doesn’t use it from time to time.
    For example, among quite young friends, the sentence for ‘call the police’ could be either “appelle les keufs” or “appelle les flics”, without much difference.
    But using too many verlan words would be laughed at or despised like in the UK if a man from Shepton Mallet called everybody ‘bro’.
    Verlan came originally from the housing projects in the periphery of the major cities (“cités de banlieue”) and then percolated in everyday informal language.

  28. Ben says:

    One more in current use, at least in California, is ‘sick’

    Others I’ve heard, with more restricted usage, are ‘ridiculous’, often shortened to [ɹədɪk], and ‘random’.