Original image
Getty Images / iStock

8 Old-Timey Ways to Say ‘No Way’

Original image
Getty Images / iStock

Feeling over committed? Need a better way to say "no"? Aside from using “don’t" instead of “can’t,” here are eight fun and old-timey ways you can say, “No way.”


The next time you want to say, “Certainly not!” you can say, “Not in these trousers!” The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) of this British English saying is from 1920 in Realities of War by Philip Gibbs: “‘Come up and have a look, Jack,’ he said to one of the blue-jackets. ‘Not in these trousers, old mate!’ said that young man.”


A slightly older U.S. colloquialism—the OED’s earliest record is from 1900—World Wide Words says not on your tintype originated when tintype photography was popular and is based on the 18th century phrase, not on your life.


Not on your Nelly is a shortened version of Not on your Nelly Duff. According to The Virtual Linguist, Nelly Duff is Cockney rhyming slang for puff, which in this context means “life” or “span of life.” The blogger also mentions another puff phrase, in (all) one's (born) puff, which is chiefly used in negative contexts and means “in a person's experience, in all a person's life.” So why does puff mean “life”? Presumably because it also means “breath.” Not on your Nelly Duff is from 1941, according to the OED, while Not on your Nelly is from 1959.


This idiom meaning “not at all” is from the 16th century. Back then, according to the OED, figs were equated with anything “small, valueless, or contemptible,” hence other figgy expressions such as not giving or caring a fig about something. Giving the fig, on the other hand, is a disdainful gesture that resembles the U.S.-centric "I got your nose!" The OED says another name for the gesture is fig of Spain, which also refers to a poisoned fig used to destroy an obnoxious person. Which came first, the insulting hand signal or the toxic fruit, isn't clear.


Aikona can mean “no, not any, not” and can also be used as an emphatic “certainly not,” “never,” and “no way!” It’s a South African colloquialism and comes from Fanakalo, a lingua franca developed and used by mining companies in Southern Africa. Fanakalo is composed of elements from Nguni languages, English, and Afrikaans.


Nixie is another “Certainly not!” variation you might want to add to your vocabulary. A blend of nix, meaning “not possibly, not at all,” and the suffix -y, its earliest usage in the OED is from 1886.


If you prefer to stump people, you can say, “On the Greek calends” when you mean “never.” The OED says it’s “humorous” because the ancient Greeks didn’t use a calends—that is, a first of the month—in how they tracked time. Hilarious! The phrase originated around 1649: “That Gold, Plate, and all Silver given to the Mint-House in these late Troubles, shall be paid at the Greek Kalends.”


A week of Sundays is, of course, seven Sundays, or seven weeks, and therefore a long or undetermined length of time. If you want to be extra emphatic about saying “Never!” you can also use, “Not in a month of Sundays,” which is a really long, seemingly endless amount of time.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]