Etymology Usage

Are you having none of it?

Q: Is the expression “I will have none of it” acceptable when referring to someone’s behavior or actions? For example, “His excessive praise is a thinly veiled attempt to jinx my research project and I will have none of it.”

A: Yes, it’s fine to use the expression that way. People have been doing it for more than a century and a half.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the expression as “to refuse or reject something outright.” And that something can be someone’s behavior or actions.

In the earliest example cited, Henry David Thoreau rejects friendship with someone who disagrees with him about right and wrong.

Here’s the citation from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849): “If Friendship is to rob me of my eyes, if it is to darken the day, I will have none of it.”

And we never miss an opportunity to quote P. G. Wodehouse. This is from Very Good, Jeeves! (1930): “Her name was Maudie and he loved her dearly, but the family would have none of it. They dug down into the sock and paid her off.”

The most recent OED example of the usage is from Swing Hammer Swing! (1992), a novel by Jeff Torrington: “I tried to coax the old woman into her apartment but she was having none of it.”

The pronoun “none” is one of the oldest words in English. We’ve written several times on the blog about the myth that it always means “not one” and always is singular.

If you disagree and are having none of it, take a look at our latest posting on the subject.

Check out our books about the English language