It describes the use of willy-nilly to mean "undecided, shilly-shally" as 'erroneous'.
Strange, I've always used it to mean closer to MJScott's definition but not exactly. To me, if someone is doing something "willy nilly", they're going from pillar to post. They're rattling around, accomplishing nothing. I always imagine someone rushing around an office, trying to look busy without actually doing anything. They are rushing around "willy nilly".
It would be nice if we had a word to describe this rushing around idea, Dimcl, and perhaps one should be coined. However willy-nilly has its own meaning, which I firmly believe to be the 'whether he wants to or not' idea. Surely it comes from the good Old English method of negating with an 'n', but in a playful way: ever/never, either/neither, will (he)/nill (he)?
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/willy+nillyFunction: adverb or adjective
Etymology: alteration of will I nill I or will ye nill ye or will he nill he Date: 16081 : by compulsion : without choice
2 : in a haphazard or spontaneous manner
That seems to me to be a perfect use.A mother wants her kid to stop going around calling people he doesn't know or older than him "dude". He should address people with respect. He shouldn't call people "dude" willy nilly/haphazardly . It's a matter of politeness , not of preference.
This term has two, slightly differing, but related meanings: 'whether it is with or against your will' and 'in an unplanned, haphazard fashion'. We tend to use the latter of these meanings today; the former was the accepted meaning when the term was first coined.
...The early meaning of the word nill is key to this. In early English nill was the opposite of will a contraction of 'ne will'. That is, will meant to want to do something, nill meant to want to avoid it.
1. Aelfric's Lives of Saints, circa 1000: "Forean the we synd synfulle and sceolan beon eadmode, wille we, nelle we."
2. The Taming of the Shrew:
Petruchio: [To Katharina]
Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented
That you shall be my wife; your dowry 'greed on;
And, Will you, nill you, I will marry you.
It certainly doesn't to me, as I said earlier. The problem with the kid in RedGiant's case isn't that he calls people dude haphazardly/randomly, but that he callsThat seems to me to be a perfect use.
I re-read posts #1 - #30. The TV show is American. The dictionaries cited all seem to be British. The question still stands. Is "against my will" connotation ever used in AE (clearly not in use at "The Office").Did you read posts #1-30 in this thread, MrP? (Rhetorical question.)
So you would see, "You shouldn't call people "dude" willy nilly. It's a matter of politeness , not of preference!" as wrong or unusual?It certainly doesn't to me, as I said earlier. The problem with the kid in RedGiant's case isn't that he calls people dude haphazardly/randomly, but that he calls
"people he doesn't know or older than him" dude, which, given that to a kid most people are either strangers or elders (and often both), is to say pretty much systematically, hence my choice of all over the place or left, right and centre.
Wow that was dull to write.
[...] The question still stands. Is "against my will" connotation ever used in AE (clearly not in use at "The Office").
Originally Posted by PaulQA mother wants his kid to stop going around calling people he doesn't know or older than him "dude". He shouldn't call people "dude" willy nilly/haphazardly . It's a matter of politeness , not of preference.
I assume it is the mother...Who said this?
There is a subtle but important difference between the original meaning "whether you will or will not" and "against your will".... but I am certain I've never heard it to mean "against ones will" ...
I thought it was an AE/BE thing with BE using it as "whether you like it or not", and now I'm surprised. I've gone through the posts and looks like most of you use/know only one meaning. Just checked it up in most popular dictionaries and they all indeed say there two meanings.How odd ~ it's always meant haphazardly to me too, as far as I know.
That is probably true (and for me it is the carelessly meaning) but I imagine that many or most of us "willy-nilly = carelessly" speakers also recognise the use of "willy-nilly" meaning whether you want to or not, if it is presented in the correct context. I certainly do, and "He found himself drawn, willy-nilly, into the argument" from Longman sounds fine to me. Quite likely the opposite is not true, because the carelessly meaning doesn't often make it into print.I've gone through the posts and looks like most of you use/know only one meaning.
Yes, I think so. But who is it referring to, I wonder? One would assume that the people being patted down would never want this to happen, so it makes little sense for "willy nilly" to refer to them. Could it refer to the police officers?This man is talking about issues with officers patting people down. Now, here "will nilly" means "whether people like it or not", right?
And then somehow it evolved into a tool where cops, not just in New York, would just approach people and pat them down nilly-willy.