Nom

Posted by on February 02, 2011

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.

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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 ‘lolcatimages.

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.”

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Comments (10)
  • It’s one of the terms I’ve filtered out on Tweetdeck. I cannot even bring myself to type it here.

    Posted by Allan Cavanagh on 2nd February, 2011
  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ian, Allan Cavanagh, Stan Carey, franknorman, James Gallagher and others. James Gallagher said: RT @MacDictionary: Excited to welcome Stan Carey on the Macmillan Dictionary Blog team: http://j.mp/hLq6Ch > nice one – well done @stancarey […]

    Posted by Tweets that mention Nom | Macmillan -- Topsy.com on 2nd February, 2011
  • Interesting to know this term……nom.nom…….nom.

    Posted by Priyamvada on 2nd February, 2011
  • Allan: Ah, I didn’t know there was a backlash! I’d call it antinomial, but the word’s already taken.

    Priyamvada: Like good food, it’s a very versatile term.

    Posted by Stan on 2nd February, 2011
  • Ha, I inadvertently had opened this post and this photo at the same time (without knowing what the photo was called): http://a2.twimg.com/profile_images/1229411061/nomnom.jpg. Not sure I can quite bring myself to say I was “nomming” on some cornbread at the same time though, but it was delicious.

    Posted by Jennifer on 2nd February, 2011
  • Jennifer: Thanks for sharing that! There’s so much nomming going on, coincidences are inevitable. And I wholly approve of sugary sweets in the shape of an octopus, if that’s what it is.

    Posted by Stan on 3rd February, 2011
  • […] Also, this: the origins of the word “NOM” […]

    Posted by Makes me smile… « Second Hand Shopper on 16th February, 2011
  • […] I looked at the onomatopoeic word nom, often seen in om nom nom, then (for Valentine’s sake) I briefly explored the word together, […]

    Posted by Writing at Macmillan Dictionary Blog « Sentence first on 22nd February, 2011
  • Stan,
    You brought back such happy memories for me! Breastfeeding my daughter over twenty years ago, her older brother (then six years old) watched her nursing and suggested it was “nommy”. The word was adopted by my daughter as the euphemism for breastfeeding and years later this was the word she used as a seven year old when she saw me coming out of the shower. We still laugh at the memory!

    Posted by Helen on 10th May, 2011
  • Helen: Very glad to bring back happy memories! Thanks for sharing the anecdote; it shows how natural the word’s onomatopoeia is.

    Posted by Stan on 11th May, 2011
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