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[ 2009-03-19 16:15]     字号 [] [] []  
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Nancy Matos

Reader question: “He recognized that you can't just abrogate contracts willy-nilly, but he moved to do what could be done.”

Could you please explain willy-nilly?

My comments: Ah, yes. Willy-nilly. It’s a fun phrase to say and looks and sounds a bit odd. It’s not a phrase you will hear very often, and if you do, it will most likely come from the lips of a British person.

Willy-nilly means something done at random and in a scattered way, all over the place or erratically. The original saying of the phrase was will I nill I or will ye nill ye or will he nill he. You can clearly see the similarity in the word origin of the phrase and in its current spelling. Also, as with many words and phrases in the English language, willy-nilly comes from the Latin nolens volens. Nolens means "being unwilling" and volens means "being willing" or "wanting".

The phrase was used in the popular (and very funny) UK comedy series The Office in Series One, Episode 2. David Brent’s character, played by British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, scolds an office worker after making a derogatory remark about a new female employee in the office with the comment: “"I will not have her…banded around this office willy-nilly".

Madonna, someone who isn’t British but sometimes thinks she is, was quoted as using willy-nilly when referring to a dinner she once attended with Prince Charles: “He's [Prince Charles] very relaxed at the table, throwing his salad around willy-nilly. I didn't find him stiff at all.”



About the author:

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.