Nothing doing!

1a The exclamation Nothing doing! is an idiom* which basically means the same as Absolutely not! when you refuse to grant a request or won't allow somebody else to do something. 

In other words, you're not willing to do it and/or you won't let someone else do it. This is basically the same as saying «You can forget it!» when someone asks for permission to do something or proposes doing something. Perhaps you've heard people say Over my dead body!... well, that's exactly what nothing doing means. You'll also hear people say I won't hear of it! with the same meaning.


*An idiom is a group of words that have a distinct meaning which you could never work out just by looking at the individual words. Nothing doing is definitely an idiom in every sense of the word: the word order is confusing and the use of the progressive in doing makes even less sense. So you just have to take it as is, learn what it means, and use it accordingly.

_______________⦿ grounded | When parents ground their child, they impose a punishment whereby the child may not leave their room or the house for a period of time. In this case, Tommy can't leave for a week because he got bad grades on his report card.⦿ Uh... | Used to abruptly call someone's attention. Here, the father wants to stop his son in his tracks because he's about to leave the house and he's supposedly grounded.⦿ Where do you think you're going? | Questions formed with do you think sound authoritative and pushy; you demand an answer because something's wrong. For instance, if a parent sees a child smoking or a boss sees an employee using Facebook on their computer instead of working, they'll ask What (the hell) do you think you're doing?!⦿ much less to | and especially with the intention of...⦿ in the first place | Used to refer to the original source of a problem.⦿ I figured | This phrase is very commonly used when people assume things. It has a nuance of «I just/simply thought that...». In this case, for instance, Tommy means I just/simply thought that my punishment would start on Monday.⦿ your (happy) ass/butt/behind | An alternative way of saying you or yourself (not literally your butt). The happy is simply thrown in for sarcasm and/or humor: it makes the person in question sound as if they were happily or innocently going about their business and that's when you hit them with some disappointing news, as in this snippet. «You were so happy — innocently thinking you were going to Tommy's, but guess what... you're grounded!»⦿ forthwith | A very formal and official way of saying right now. Parents often address their children formally when they're angry; it expresses a certain detachment that assures the child that they're displeased and not willing to hear excuses.

Adam's father just grounded him for a week for a bad report card. However, he sees him heading out the door and is confounded as to why he'd be leaving the house.


Father: Uh... young man, where do you think you're going?

Adam: To Tommy's, to play video games.

Father: What part of "you're grounded for a week" did you not understand? I thought I made myself perfectly clear... you're not to leave this house for a week — much less to go to Tommy's. That's why your grades are so bad in the first place: too much gaming and not enough studying.

Adam: Well, it's Friday. I figured my punishment would start on Monday. 

Father: Nothing doing! You can turn around and march your happy behind right back upstairs. Your punishment starts forthwith!

In this cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown if he's ever told a girl he likes her. His responds basically means «Why, so she can just laugh in my face? Absolutely not!!». In other words, there no way he's willing to expose himself to an embarrassing situation like that and he uses nothing doing to make that absolutely clear.

Here, Jughead is obviously broke and is begging the server at the local diner to make him a cheeseburger. He promises to pay him for it next month. But the server's not having it! Clearly, Jughead has done this before and didn't paid, so he REFUSES to serve him.

1b The exclamation Nothing doing! is often used in cases where you won't allow someone to do you a kindness because you feel that it'll put them out or cause them too much inconvenience or even expense or you just want to be kind. 

Here Bob is being politely forceful and insistent, leaving Doug no choice but to take the book whether he wants to or not. So although nothing doing can sound extremely forceful when refusing to do something, it can also sound extremely nice when used to politely insist on a kindness, as in this snippet. In this context, you'll also hear I won't hear of it!
Doug goes to pay for a book in her local bookstore only to find that he left his wallet at home.____________

Bob: Gonna learn some Spanish, huh?

Doug: Yep, I'm going to Spain in the summer.

Bob: That'll be $12.50. 

Doug: Oh no, I left my wallet at home. I'll put this back and come back tomorrow.

Bob: Nothing doing! You can pay me later.

Doug: Thank you, Bob, but I won't hear of it

Bob: [Taking the book and putting it in Doug's backpack] Now you take this book home and pay me whenever. Ok?!

Doug: Ok. Thank you so much!

1c Sometimes nothing doing is used impersonally in any situation where someone sets out to do something, but things turn out differently and the plan fails or proves impossible.

In this clip from a YouTube video explaining the plot of the movie, Memento, the narrator says, "Teddy tries to get Jim's money from the trunk of his car, but nothing doing..." 

In other words, Teddy set out to get the money, but couldn't in the end for whatever reason. His plan proved impossible and fruitless.

This entry is from the journal of an artist who routinely goes out and sketches things. On this day, he intended to go outside and sketch, but it was so cold that he couldn't. 

He writes:

22 February 2015. The day is cold. I've tried to sketch outside, but nothing doing, so I head to the museum.

Here, the author isn't refusing to do something or not allowing something to be done — he simply had a plan and it didn't work out. Check out his site to see his beautiful sketches and read his journal.

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