‘Ano ba ‘yung nonchalant?’: A not-so-nonchalant explainer

March 22, 2024 - 6:38 PM
Nonchalant (Merriam-Webster Dictionary/Facebook)

(Updated March 23, 2024; 9:16 a.m.) You’ve met a nonchalant or two in your life. There’s a chance you yourself are one.

But what does it mean? And why is it thrown so casually around online?

In one viral Facebook post, one Filipino poked fun answering the question: “Ano ba ‘yung nonchalant?” The response was SB19’s song “MAPA” which goes “nonchalant chalant chalant”.

Funny knock-knock, but not quite it.

Nonchalant by definition characterizes a person who appears more calm and relaxed as expected. It came from a French verb “nonchaloir” which directly translates as “not being concerned.”

It entered the internet jargon recently, and has since taken on various tones, in an array of contexts and jokes you might not have encountered yet.

Here’s a not-so-nonchalant guide: 

The cold person

One of the first online uses of this word traces back to online dating canon.

For some, it could be used to describe an avoidant love interest who plays a laid-back role.

But mask off, a nonchalant person could also be someone who is not communicating properly—either by choice or by way of their personality.

In this TikTok video, one user explains how there could be a thin line between someone “nonchalant” and someone emotionally unavailable.

That thin line, however, should be tread with caution and not to normalize the behavior.

As one X (formerly Twitter) posted, it’s all about reciprocity.

‘Si OA at si nonchalant’

Nonchalant is often coupled with what Filipinos call “OA” or over-acting.

“OA” came in vogue online almost the same time as nonchalant, making a perfect yin and yang, and a version of “Black cat girlfriend-golden retriever boyfriend” stereotype.

The throwaway

Sticking closer to the original meaning of the word, people also use nonchalant in direct replacement of “carefree” and “careless”. 

Others, meanwhile, use the term to describe someone who is admirably cool.

Vaguely, it could also mean “unbothered”.

While the word is originally neutral, social media users take the liberty to use it as they please.