On The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan

‘On The Ning Nang Nong’ by Spike Milligan was published in Silly Verse For Kids in 1959 and was later voted as the UK’s favourite comic poem in the late 1990s. The poem was also set to music and featured weekly on the children’s program Play School.

 It is a seventeen line poem that is contained within one block of text. The lines do not follow a consistent pattern, but there is a unity in the end sounds. The end sounds progress as follows: AABCCBDDBAACCDDAA. A reader should take note of the use of repetition in the rhyming pairs and their reoccurrence within the text.  As is common within Milligan’s work, this piece is addressed to a younger audience. This is easily understood through the content, simple sounds, and emphasis on onomatopoeia.

On The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan

 

Summary

On The Ning Nang Nong‘ by Spike Milligan speaks, through nonsense language, on a make-believe world made primarily of noises.

The poem begins with the speaker giving the reader a few very strange lines about a place called “The Ning Nang Nong.” There is a great emphasis placed on onomatopoeic language. Within almost every line there is an exclamation of sorts that is meant to surprise and please the reader.

As the poem progresses the speaker tells the reader about the noises made by trees, teapots, and mice. The poem concludes with a recognition that the imagined land described in the text is “noisy.”

You can read the full poem here.

 

Onomatopoeia

There are many lines within ‘On The Ning Nang Nong‘ in which Milligan makes use of onomatopoeia. Examples of these words can be found in almost every line, such as “and the monkey’s all say BOO!” in line three. These words generally mimic or phonetically imitate the sounds they are describing. Another great example within the text is “jibber jabber joo.”

 

Sounds and Meanings 

Within this piece Milligan plays with the sounds, meanings and lack of meanings attached to real and nonsense words. Some of those that should be recognizable include “Clang” and “Ping.” These represent real words that have an onomatopoeic meaning. Some of the nonsense words include,  “Nong” and “Nang.” These do not have a specific meaning, it is up to the reader to imbue them with some, or to just appreciate them for the way they sound.

This is especially true when they are spoken out loud. It is from this perspective that Milligan likely approached the text. There does not seem to be a deeper meaning behind this chaos of words and phrases. A reader should approach ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ in the same way, with the intent of enjoying the sounds of the words and the way they are arranged. 

 

Analysis of On The Ning Nang Nong

Lines 1-5

On the Ning Nang Nong
(…)
Where the trees go Ping!

In the first lines of this piece, the speaker begins by utilizing the line that came to be used as the title. The speaker is clearly planning on discussing something. The words that follow are nonsense though. Milligan did not have one larger meaning to convey through these words. Rather, as stated previously, a reader should embrace the sounds and arrangements of the lines. 

It is in the “Ning Nang Nong” that the “Cows go Bong!” There is a pleasure to be had in the use of these exclamatory words. The “Bong!” is a surprise at the end of the line, especially considering it’s connected to the “Cows.” Perhaps this is a reference to an unusual sound made by the animals.

Also in “Ning Nang Nong” there are monkeys that go “BOO!” Again, this all caps word is meant to surprise the reader. A young child reading this piece, or hearing it read aloud was meant to enjoy these moments the most. 

Lastly, in this first set of lines, there are “trees” that “go Ping!” This is one of the more confusing references in ‘On The Ning Nang Nong.’ It does not matter exactly how this sound connects to the tree, rather than the tree is able to make a sound at all. 

 

Lines 6-9

And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
(…)
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!

In line six the speaker states that there are also “tea pots” in this confusing and perhaps magical place. They “jibber jabber joo.” These words mimic some kind of speech. Perhaps, “On the Nong Ning Nang “ these tea pots talk, whatever that may mean. He adds that “All the mice go Clang.” It seems that this is a secret part of the world. If “you” are in the “Nong Ning Nang” then you won’t ever be able to “catch” the mice making this noise or the teapots speaking. 

 

Lines 10-15

So its Ning Nang Nong
(…)
The mice go Clang

The next lines are much shorter than those which proceeded them. There is a repetition of the previous lines. They have been shortened until the bare minimum of information remains. There is also a kind of summarizing going on. This is indicated through the use of the word “So” at the beginning of line ten. The speaker reiterates the phrases “Trees go ping” and “mice go Clang.”

 

Lines 16-17

What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

The second to last line is different than the rest. It addresses the fact that the “Nong Ning Nang” is a place and a “noisy” one at that. It is clear the speaker sees the sounds the animals and objects make are the main focus of the poem and the imagined location. The last line is another exclamation, it further emphasizes the place but this time refers to it as “Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong.” 

The place-name has changed from where it first started, the order of the words as well as the number of times they are used and/or repeated. This makes it very clear that the world Milligan has imagined is based on sound, rather than something physical. 

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Emma Baldwin
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analysing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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