No hi, boo, nothing

I grew up using this phrase to mean you didn’t get any reaction at all to something. I never really thought about until I was watching Kill Bill.

Whenever she says yes, she says, “Hi”.

Whenever she says no, she says, “Boo”.

Suddenly the old saying means, no yes, no no, nothing. And it makes sense.

So I went to google, and apparently the phrase doesn’t even exist. Then I got to thinking, “I’m probably spelling it wrong, since the hi and boo are foreign words.” But, I don’t know the proper way to spell them, and I realized the teeming millions know everything. I’m sure at least one of them has heard this phrase and could help me track it down and see if my epiphany was correct or not.

Just curious, as I’ve never heard the phrase, where did you grow up?

North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Alabama.
South Dakota multiple times.

Yeah, Pennsylvanian here who never heard of it.

Not part of the New England vernacular either.

I wonder if it’s just a family thing then, which makes me wonder even more where it came from. It’s been a part of my speech pattern for as long as I can remember, so its very possible I’m actually corrupting a different phrase. It took me forever to say cinnamon instead of cimmanon.

No help on the whole expression, but I suspect the “hi” may be “hai” if it’s Japanese.


Growing up as a Great Lakes mid-westerner, this is the first time I have heard it.
I have been all over the country as an adult and haven’t heard it either.
Of course, if spoken to, I usually respond.

It does have a certain expressive cadence to it.
I may just try it out on my co-workers when they get the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. :slight_smile:

I had always had this take on it.

A friendly greeting. Often used between friends or others as a welcome.

An unfriendly greeting. Often used by ghosts or adversaries as a repellent.

So, “No hi, boo, nothing” means “Nobody welcomed me or tried to shoo me away. It was like I wasn’t even there”. I’ve seen it more often shortened to just “Nobody said boo”. Like when you go into a Home Depot with a broken Flitzer Valve in your hand and, while you see few customers and many orange aprons, none of the orange aprons ask to help and they seem to run away when you try to talk to them. So, you go to the Lowe’s down the road and when someone asks if you need help, you say, “Yeah, well I was in the Home Depot, but nobody would even say boo, so I came here. This thing is broke [holding up said Flitzer Valve] and I need another one.”

I’ve never seen “Hi” to mean “Yes” or “Boo” to mean “No”.

I grew up in Memphis and points south. It was not a common saying, but I think most people would understand it.

hai bu, maybe?

to not say boo means not to say anything, so i can see pairing that with saying someone didn’t even say hi - they didn’t even say boo- in other words they ignored you.

My Mom says a similar thing along the lines of, “No hello, no Fuck you, no nothing!” You know she’s really irritated at you then. That side of the family is from northern Missouri and around Springfield, IL, FWIW.

Thank you :slight_smile: It sounds like it’s just a regional variant of a saying then, and not from a foreign language. So much for my epiphany.

Bu does mean no in Chinese.

That is the phraseology with which I am familiar. IOW, them’s the wurds we use 'round heuh.

I know it as a slight variant, when someone’s gone “into the wind” & you haven’t heard from them in a while, good or bad, as in, “I haven’t heard from ___, no Hi, no boo, no nuffin’” where the boo part us their pissed at you for something as it’s not nice to scare someone.

Interestingly, hai is Cantonese for yes and bu seems to Mandarin for “not”. Of course The Bride in Kill Bill is more connected to Japan, where yes is “hai” but no is “iie”. Confusing, this.

Hi Boo…?

“Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes…!”

I’ve always heard it as “no hi, no boo, no nothing” meaning I got no response at all or someone did not speak to me at all (a grave offense in the South.)

“Hai” is Japanese for ‘yes’, or more accurately for agreement. Mostly. It’s also used to affirm the correctness of a negative question (an answer of ‘hai’ to “Are you not going to the store?” means ‘Correct, I am not going to the store’) and as a general ‘roger, got that’ or even just ‘I acknowledge that you have spoken some words’. Japanese is such a high-context language and contains so much ellipsis that a Japanese-English translation dictionary were completely honest, it would be half blank.

“Bu” is not quite ‘no’ in Chinese. Chinese doesn’t have a straight ‘no’; you answer the question “Are you [verb]ing?” with either ‘[verb]’ if you are, or ‘not [verb]’ if you aren’t. The ‘not’ in that construction is usually “bu”. It makes translation interesting sometimes. The internet meme “Do not want!” is actually from a copy of Star Wars that was subtitled by a native speaker of some dialect of Chinese, whose grasp of English was shaky. The heroic NOOOOOO! from Luke right after learning Vader was his father was rendered as “bu yao” in the Chinese dialogue, and then translated back literally as ‘do not want!’ Which I suppose was an accurate reflection of Luke’s feelings at the time, but not the usual way to do that in English.

The phrase you cite is unlikely to have anything to do with Japanese/Chinese. It would have to come from a Western source, in the infinitesimal chance that it does. The two languages do share a lot of ideographs (hanzi in Chinese, kanji in Japanese) so they can be cross-read for information content, to some degree. If they were read aloud, though, they would be pronounced as per the speaker’s native language, not one word in Japanese and one in Chinese. Japanese has pure phonetic characters that have no Chinese equivalent, so I’m not sure what the average Chinese speaker would do there, but when Chinese words or phrases are borrowed into Japanese, they’re always read by Japanese rules. “Ramen”, as in the noodles, was originally just the Japanese pronunciation of the characters for “lo mein”.