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Re: Not On Your Nellie

Posted by R. Berg on September 04, 2001

In Reply to: Not On Your Nellie posted by Peter Pritchard on September 04, 2001

: G'day from Aussie,

: we don't have any strange phrases down under, but what about this bonza old pommy one

: anyone got any ideas?
: Cheers, Pete

Always nice to hear from another part of the world. Eric Partridge says a little about your phrase in "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":

not on your Nellie! (or Nelly) 'Not on your life!' An intensive tag, dating since the late 1930s. Used by, e.g., Frank Norman in his very readable "Bang to Rights," 1958. Short for 'not on your Nellie Duff!'; and 'Nellie Duff' rhymes on 'puff', breath, breath of life, life itself.
(Partridge also says that "not on your life!" dates from the late 1880s or perhaps earlier.)

So it seems to have begun as rhyming slang.