We’re really excited to have Stan Carey on our team. Stan will be blogging every week, paying special attention to global English and to the theme of the month. In his own words, Stan is a scientist and writer turned editor and swivel-chair linguist … which is perfect for us! You may already have met Stan through his blog Sentence First. This is Stan’s first blog post in 2011 on Macmillan Dictionary Blog.
The slang term nom is used to convey the enjoyment of eating something tasty, or even just thinking about it. It’s often seen in phrases like “nom nom” and “om nom nom”. There are variant spellings, such as “nyom” and “nyum”, but nom (give or take an om and some extra noms) has become the norm. It’s an onomatopoeic expression, evoking the sound of food being gobbled up with gusto.
As well as its familiar use as an interjection, nom is also seen as an adjective (“this cake is the nommest”), a noun (“let’s have noms!”), and a verb (“Come on over, we’re nomming (on) marshmallows”). Om nom nom was popularised by the Cookie Monster in Sesame Street – there’s an interview with him here about his distinctive eating style – and it got a new lease of life as an internet meme, particularly in ‘lolcat’ images.
Though nom is certainly popular with animals, or rather in our surreal fantasies of them, its application has spread to all sorts of objects, animate and otherwise. Wherever there’s a suggestion of hungry happy eating or swallowing, no matter how fantastical, you can just add eyes and teeth and you have om nom nom nom. The expression is commonly extended to anything considered figuratively “good enough to eat”. For example, if you search Twitter for nom + the name of an attractive actor, you’ll see what I mean.
Nom also serves as a common abbreviation of nominate and nomination; both can be seen in this tweet from BBC Comedy: “Oscar noms soon. Will Ricky Gervais be nommed for his role in The King’s Speech?” But the foodie sense is really where our appetite for the word lies, and this nom shows no sign of fading. In the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year poll for 2010, nom won the “Most Useful” category and was a runner-up in the overall Word of the Year category, pipped to the post by app. Mark Peters summed up my feelings about this when he quipped: “You can nom an app, but you can’t app a nom.”Email this Post