This famous – or possibly notorious – two-letter word is also an illustration of the finely graded scale of affirmation and negation that Dresdeners apply in their speech. It is one of several such Saxon expressions: a ‘neee’ is a full-blown ‘no’, ‘nuni’ means ‘not now’, ‘nano’ is ‘that’s right’ and ‘gorni’ means ‘not at all’. The system suits the Dresdener, because he aims to be neither a yes-man nor a spoilsport. Sometimes, he finds it quite convenient not to be understood by others.
High German? A corrupt form of Saxon!
The ‘nu’ form is unique to the Dresden variant of Sächsisch. The Dresdener stands out from the rest, and that’s the way he likes it. Listeners prick up their ears as soon as he opens his mouth. The dialect is an expression of his homeland.
Luther translated the Bible into German as spoken at the court of Meissen, and from then on, all church-going Germans had to ‘babble’ like Saxons. If you study the history of the language, you will come to see that Saxon is not a corrupt form of High German but rather the reverse.
In the days of Luther, Germany was still called ‘Teutschland’. And presumably, it would still be called that today, if the Dresdeners had not ‘weech geklobbd’ (softened) the initial ‘T’. It should further be noted that, although the Dresdener does not always say what he thinks, he always means what he says.