“Cheeky Nando’s”

Humility is always a good thing. I got a dose of it recently, courtesy of a BuzzFeed article posted to Facebook by a friend of mine, Siobhan Wagner, a journalist who was born in the U.S, but has been living in London for nine years. The article was called “Americans On Tumblr Are Trying To Find Out What A ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ Is And Are Struggling” and concerned a meme that had become popular in England. Here’s an example:


As the title suggests, the article detailed the exasperation expressed by Americans, in trying to cypher out the meaning not only of “cheeky Nando’s” but of the definitions for it put forward by Brits. Here’s one exchange:

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.54.42 PM

And another:

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.57.10 PM

I mentioned humility. The notion is relevant because premise of this blog is that the gap between the two brands of English — American and British —is diminishing and will one day recede to nothing.

The cheeky Nando’s discourse showed me how far away that day is. Both the above explanations could be in a foreign language, so full are they with slang that a Yank can barely comprehend, much less consider utilizing.  Take the second one. We get “mate,” to be sure;  “wif” is a rendition of Mockney th-fronting (as in calling Keith Richards “Keef”). “jd”: I have no clue. Same with “curry club” and “the ‘Spoons.” Urban Dictionary has this for “ledge”: “Shortened slang for ‘legendary’, or, more commonly, for ‘legend’.” Then there’s this whole “banter” thing, which seems to elevate joking around with the lads to a sacred pedestal. (I love the #barackobanter hashtag.) Turning again to Urban Dictionary,  I find the brev defined as “chav word for brother,” i.e, it’s a case of th-fronting abbreviation. And note that the person giving the definition calls him- or herself “chavvesty.” The OED, which doesn’t include ledge or brev, defines chav this way: “In the United Kingdom (originally the south of England): a young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of designer-style clothes (esp. sportswear); usually with connotations of a low social status.” (Sportswear??) I can figure out “Top. Let’s smash it” from context clues, but I couldn’t imagine using it.

That still doesn’t explain “cheeky Nando’s”! I have actually written about cheeky, which is something like a cross between sassy and impudent. And I know from my time in the U.K. that Nando’s is a chain of restaurants specializing in spicy grilled chicken, which has now expanded into the U.S.; I can figure out that in the meme, “Nando’s” signifies, basically, “food ordered and eaten in a Nando’s establishment.” (For a humorous take on the chain see this video.) But I still didn’t have a clue as to what the expression means. Taking on the established befuddled Yank role, I asked Siobhan if she could supply a definition/explanation, and she kindly did so:

Basically, the concept of a “cheeky Nandos” is similar to a “cheeky pint.” Maybe when you were in London, someone might have asked you ‘Fancy a cheeky pint after work?’ Effectively they’re saying: I know it’s only Tuesday and I really should be rushing home to make something for dinner or perhaps (more virtuously) going to the gym, but do you want to have a quick drink or two in the local pub before heading on the torture chamber known as the rush hour tube? A “cheeky Nandos” is, similarly, an unexpected suggestion. You’re probably already out with friends, maybe at the pub, actually maybe having that “cheeky pint” that was suggested, and then your stomach rumbles and you’re like: “Actually, how would you fancy a cheeky Nandos now?” Nandos following the consumption of 1.5-2 alcoholic beverages probably falls under the category of “cheeky.” Going to Nandos drunk isn’t cheeky, though. The idea is you are in the mid-point of your night out with friends when “banter” is really going. Everyone is laughing, probably “taking the piss” (making fun) of each other, and a relaxed sit-down restaurant where you pay up front (so you don’t have the messiness of figuring out how to split the bill later) is totally perfect.

I get it, kind of. But, keeping with the theme of humility, I’m still very ignorant on what might be called the rhetorical framing of the meme, including what it means that, in some representation, David Cameron (hardly a chav) is pictured. Can English readers help me out on the issue of exactly what group is being mocked, and what group is doing the mocking–and if there is any overlap between the two?

36 thoughts on ““Cheeky Nando’s”

  1. I saw this recently and was rather amused! I think JD is short for JD Sports (sports shop!). The ‘Spoons is short for Wetherspoons, a chain of pub/restaurants, where you could get a curry. Curry club is likely to be a meal deal of some sort.

    1. JD = Spoons = JD Wetherspoons, ubiquitous pub chain noted for being cheap and for its relatively wide beer selection, thus skewing male in clientele.

      1. In this case JD actually means JD Sports the ‘sport’ clothing shop. Usually frequented by chavs buying their everyday clothing.

  2. Both the original explanation displayed are essentially mocking ‘chavs’ – their names (Ryan and Calum, both proper lads – i.e. loud, unsophisticated, binge-drinking, poorly educated) their dress sense (chinos for dressing up, cheap branded sportswear the rest of the time), where they drink (Weatherspoons, a charmless chain of city centre pubs) and eat (Nandos – charmless chain of identical chicken restaurants). And, of course, their way of talking and their belief that their conversations constitute hilarious banter.

    Cheeky in this sense means a mild combination of impromptu, naughty and risky but worth it for some quick satisfactory gain. In cricket, you might hit the ball just a few feet and go for a cheeky single. But that’s a whole different ball game…

    1. The original explanations are deliberately having fun at the expense of the questioner, because the writer knows it will be unintelligible. However, they are not mocking chavs. This is just how, in a certain register, we speak.

    2. J D Wetherspoon was established in 1979 by a New Zealand business genius called Tim Martin. The chain now has 900 pubs throughout the UK offering very good value for money. It is rumoured that Wetherspoon was the name of one of Martin’s teachers in NZ who told him he would never achieve anything in life. A favourite pub name in the chain is The Moon under Water which was George Orwell’s ideal mythical drinking spot.

  3. Yes Curry Club is a meal deal, it only happens once a week. You know ‘cheeky nandos’ doesn’t really mean anything don’t you. Cheeky as in unexpected and shouldn’t happen is the right way of using cheeky in this respect, but these days the ‘yoof’ of today are calling every Nandos that they have a cheeky nandos. So, it has lost all meaning in my opinion.

  4. As above “Spoons” is short for Wetherspoons (not Weather spoons) a very successful pubchain concentrating on cheap prices and real British beer . They have curry club night once a week.
    “Cheeky” in this example is,as described, something your other half probably wouldn’t be pleased with, you sneakily have a pint or two with your mates but then you get the munchies and are tempted by a curry rather than eating at home with your beloved.

  5. This takes me back to the days of the Mods and the Rockers when much of their lingo was unintelligible to us Yankee outsiders. My initial thought here was that the meaning of this is something I’m never going to have to learn unless, possibly, they open a restaurant in my town.

    Checking the Internet, however, I found a Nando’s already here. (http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Nando%27s&find_loc=Austin%2C+TX). It’s not, however, part of the chain (which began in South Africa), which is currently surrounding the greater D.C. area (incl. MD & VA), with plans to open in Chi-town this year.

    If and when the chain does come to TX, they’re probably going to knock off the local knock-off.

  6. Also I would refer you to the British usage of ‘going for an Indian’, ‘going for a Chinese’ (also sometimes a ‘Chinky nosh’, though people don’t use that so much now as it’s a bit racist), even ‘going for an Italian’ etc., in other words, using the name of the cuisine as a substitute for saying ‘going to eat in a Chinese/Indian restaurant’.

    Also, re ‘cheeky’, there are other usages such as ‘a cheeky fag’ for slipping out for an unsanctioned cigarette break. I do realise that this particular usage will NEVER, EVER cross the Atlantic in a westerly direction.

  7. The “explanations” in the Buzzfeed article are more “wind-up” than explanation. Not helped by the fact that everything an Englishman says is ironic to some degree.

  8. JD Sports is a sportswear chain, coincidentally J D Wetherspoons is a very successful UK pub chain specialising in well priced British beers and pub grub. It was started by Tim Martin who I believe named his business after J.D. a figure in the TV series Dukes of Hazard and a Mr. Wetherspoon, a teacher who told him he would never amount to anything! Pubs in the chain are now affectionately called ‘spoons’. There are various food nights at the Spoons, one of them is curry club which I guess is self -explanatory. Nandos is a cheap spicy chicken chain of restaurants, the original idea of which was to promote Portugese (via Africa) Peri peri chicken. Nandos and JD Sports are seen as popular with a younger, lower class, ‘urban’ crowd. Wetherspoons is seen as having older working class customers.
    “Cheeky” in these examples all refer to something you shouldn’t really do, you could substitute the word ‘crafty’. A cheeky couple of swift ones with your mates means having a quick drink with your friends instead of rushing home to be with your beloved family.

  9. Banter is particularly cruel joshing in a group. It is almost bullying. In the same way that some men try to excuse objectifying women with, ‘It was a compliment’, calling it banter means they think the victim shouldn’t get upset.

    It came to prominence when 2 sports broadcasters were caught between broadcasts, but on camera, making offensive and sexist comments about people in the studio. Their excuse? ‘It was only banter’.

    They were fired.

  10. I too saw those postings. I’m an American who lived in England for a few years when I was a young kid. That was a long time ago.

    I’ve never set foot in the UK as an adult, but I had no problem reading the obvious send-up explanations of the expressions, even though the writers were obviously trying to be obtuse.

    I was amused by the rhyming slang “Hank Marvin” for “starvin'”. I imagine recognition of the name Hank Marvin is much higher among young people in the UK than in the US.

  11. I have long been a fan of the ‘crafty’ pint (rather than ‘cheeky’). ‘Crafty’ implies that you shouldn’t really be going to the pub e.g. your spouse is expecting you back for dinner.
    There is also the ‘mezzanine’ pint where one drinker is so thirsty that he slips in a pint of his own between rounds


    1. ‘Crafty’ here comes from Old English ‘craeftig’ (like modern German kräftig) meaning strong or powerful. I.e. drinking something like Abbot Ale instead of IPA. At least that is a good etymology, even if it is probably bollox

  12. Thank you, Tom. You made me realise that, in the North at least, we don’t have a cheeky pint nor a crafty pint or even a swift half. We go for a swifty.

    ‘If we meet at 7.30 we can have a swifty before the show.’

    ‘I’m off the train. Off for a swifty, then home.’ This is a direct quote from a text I regularly get from my husband on a Friday.

    Better a swifty than a quickie, eh?

  13. A few years ago a Nando’s I used to visit was raided and all its (African) kitchen staff arrested as illegal immigrants.

    That’s pretty cheeky, I’d say !

    In the same town, it was impossible to get a seat at the nearby ‘Spoons on weekday afternoons because it was full to bursting with pensioners.

  14. Actually, one of the commenters on the Buzzfeed article provides a close to perfect translation:
    Emma Hedges · Top Commenter · Student Activities and Representation Co-ordinator at KeeleSU
    Hopefully this should help. It’s not that hard but here it goes:

    I have clarified some other idioms which may help you to decipher some of the the other phrases which do not seem clear. Cheeky Nandos is when one visits the chicken restaurant chain ‘Nandos’ with a group of friends (top lads) who are in a high spirited mood making jokes (banter). You are probably already out in town, maybe drinking (on the lash) and you may feel hungry (proper peckish mate, hank marvin) so someone suggests a meal at Nando’s. Everyone likes Nando’s so the person suggesting Nando’s will be congratulated (you fucking ledge, top lad). Because in Nando’s, there is a tendency to overorder on food or order food which is too spicy, finishing a meal can sometimes require perseverance and stamina. When one finishes a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ they may again be congratulated (smashed it lads, fucking bossed it). It is the spontaneity and high spiritedness that defines this as a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’. A Cheeky Nandos would generally not be pre-planned.

  15. Is it James Corden who is bringing this phrase to the attention of Americans (in his chat show)? He first came to prominence in the UK playing Smiffy, a character in the sitcom, Gavin & Stacey, who spoke in this manner with his friend Gavin. I don’t remember them ever going for a cheeky Nandos, but it is the sort of thing they might have done.

  16. The David Cameron references are mocking the fact that he is very upper class and would be very unlikely to visit a place that is so proletarian. It is also mocking the fact that he tries to pretend to be a man of the people, so would probably like to give the impression that there’s nothing he would like better than to have a cheeky Nandos. Just as he claims, improbably, to have a favourite football team, but gave it away by naming two different teams at different times.

    It would be a bit like mocking Hilary by suggesting ironically that she loves popping for an impromptu meal at Dennys whenever she gets a chance.

  17. It’s the same thing from here. We import American lingo all the time yet when I used to read articles in the New York Times online I often didn’t know the idiom or the references so couldn’t grasp the point being made. Only last night I was reading an ATP online news article about the French Open, which stated that Wawrinka had played “lights-out tennis” for much of the match and that he had “red-lined” a backhand winner to break Djokovic. I hadn’t come across those terms before in that context and don’t know the references or meaning.

    The comments about banter in that article are very funny. Bantz is a current popular version of the word itself, often used scathingly by people who hate the fad and the easy resort to it as a way of trying to excuse anything said. “Brev” is new to me. The familiar word is “bruv”, short for “bruvva”. When the reality TV programme Big Brother featured regularly on the front pages of the tabloid press such as The Sun and The Daily Star, a.typical headline would be something like “Big Bruv Babe Sex Romp”.

      1. I would assume that “red-lined” means “extremely high energy” as when you race an automobile’s engine to the point where the tachometer “red-lines”, that is, reaches the warning point of excessive RPM’s.

    1. Over the last 10 years or so it’s become common to hear British teens and 20-somethings use the term ‘Brethren’ when referring to their close friends (at least my brother and hs mates were always doing this back in the noughties, and I hear kids in London schools where I give talks using this term regularly). ‘Brevs’ is likely a truncation of this.

  18. I’m an American with a sincere love of British wit. Thought I would weigh in on terms “red-line” and “lights-out” for you. To red line means to drive (as in a vehicle) at or above what should be its maximum speed; that is really fast. Lights-out means something is decisive or handled easily; like saying “hands-down” or “easy-peasy” in the British vernacular.

  19. Late to the debate, having just discovered the blog:

    It’s likely, or at least possible, that the “cheeky Nando’s” phrase is an echo of “cheeky Vimto”, which is an alcoholic fruity concoction that was in vogue a few years ago among a similar demographic (and which despite its name does not contain the soft drink Vimto, though it does taste remarkably similar). The “cheeky” in that refers to the alcohol content, which real Vimto, of course, lacks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheeky_Vimto

  20. Right m8, It’s propped simple. There’s these chavs called Labour, Right, and they got beef wif the absolute ledges that are the Tories. Centre piece of the crew is my mans David Cameron. Top lad, the archbishop of Banterbury, bantersaurus rex. Now, dem orange labour fags sit and struggle to fend off the top bants that won’t stop coming with weak meme games, while the Lib Dems just keep trying to trick us into finkin they still relevant. But my mans david won a cheeky election and is now top dog AND top lad of Great Britain.

Leave a Reply to IvanOpinion Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s