To have a nodding acquaintance with somebody

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A-friend

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
In Persian culture, when two people do not know each other (E.g. in a neighborhood) and just because of living in a same place and seeing each other frequently or being familiar only by sight, when they exchange greetings (because of respecting a person who is living or working in the same place with them) [please note that they do not speak together, they do not know even each other’s name and just nodding their head to each other when they face each other often having a smile on their face], we use a specific idiom to indicate their relationship. For example:
A) Do you know him well?
B) No; I have only a nodding acquaintance with him.
Though I am sure that it can convey the message, but still I do not know whether there is such a concept in English at all or not? I wonder if you could help me.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    There is such a concept, A-friend. I've also heard, read, and used the phrase "to have a nodding acquaintance with X". People sometimes use that phrase figuratively, but I'm pretty sure they also use it to describe "relationships" with people that are restricted to nods.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    There is such a concept, A-friend. I've also heard, read, and used the phrase "to have a nodding acquaintance with X". People sometimes use that phrase figuratively, but I'm pretty sure they also use it to describe "relationships" with people that are restricted to nods.
    Thanks Owlman5
    But what about:
    passing acquiantance
    ?
    Is it more common in comparison with my "nodding acquaintance"? :confused: Which one is the most common in AE?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I've definitely heard both "nodding acquaintance" and "passing acquaintance". I can't recall having heard "passing acquaintances" used to describe people who only nod to each other in the hallway. The phrase would make sense in that context, however.

    Judging by this graph from Google's Ngram Viewer, both phrases are used and seem to be equally common throughout the English-speaking world in the twenty-first century. I don't hear either phrase very often, A-friend, so my opinion about which phrase is most common in the US isn't worth anything.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Whether you look at British English or American English in the Ngram viewer, you will see that "nodding" rose to popularity and peaked in the 1950-1960 timeframe and has now become less popular than "passing" (which has been steady the whole time). At the peak it was more frequent in BrE than it was in AmE, but neither form is exclusive.

    Cross-posted with Owlman5
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Whether you look at British English or American English in the Ngram viewer, you will see that "nodding" rose to popularity and peaked in the 1950-1960 timeframe and has now become less popular than "passing" (which has been steady the whole time). At the peak it was more frequent in BrE than it was in AmE, but neither form is exclusive.

    Cross-posted with Owlman5
    Thanks Julian
    But as a conclusion the upshot is that both idioms are correct but "passing" is more common and more AE, while "nodding" is more BE and by laps of time losing its popularity. Accordingly using both of these idioms whether in the US. or Great Britain will not sound odd. Am I right?


     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I can't answer for Julian, A-friend, but I would understand either phrase with no problem in a conversation with you. If you're really interested in whether your use of the phrase is easy to understand, you can always post a sentence in which you use that phrase and ask for members' comments on its suitability in that context.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I hear, and use, both for the relationship you describe. I think probably in my experience "nodding acquaintance" is more common, but certainly both are fine in AE.
     
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