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MLS English Language Program

Davis Square

402 A Highland Avenue, Suite I

Somerville, MA 02144  United States of America

© 2019 by James Doyle

ENGLISH EXPRESSIONS

 

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." = "You are in denial." 

Example:

Rose:     “My boyfriend is so sweet!"

Laura:    “Toby? He's terrible."  

Rose:     “What? No! He's amazing!”

Laura:    “He told my boyfriend that he cheated on you

                    when he visited Cuba and South Africa."

Rose    “I don't believe you! Why would you say something like that?”

Laura:    “I'm sorry, Rose, but everyone knows it's true. He's a womanizer." 

Rose    “No! They're lying!”

Laura:    “Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

Notes:

1.   This informal expression is used to inform others that they are in denial. That is, these individuals

are rejecting a truth which is clear to others. As such, this expression is used to counsel others.

2.   Here, "denial" represents a New York City pronunciation of "the Nile," which, of course, is

"a river in Egypt." As such, this expression is somewhat limited to the New York City area.

3.   A related expression is, "I guess Cleopatra is not the only queen of denial."

4.   Media Reference #1: Ilana Glazer's character of "Ilana Wexler" references this expression in a

conversation with Abbi Jacobson's character of "Abbi Abrams" in season 5, episode 4 of the HBO sitcom

Broad City, "Make The Space," to describe Abbi's roommate's hoarding: "Abi, denial ain’t just a river in...um

...He’s in denial." (At 9 minutes and 30 seconds into the broadcast. Originally aired February 14th, 2019.)

5.   Media Reference #2: Ellen Pompeo's character of "Dr. Meredith Grey" uses this expression in season 2, episode 4 of the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy, "Deny, Deny, Deny," in her role as narrator to summarize the episode: "Denial, it ain't just a river in Egypt. It's a freakin' ocean." (At 41 minutes and 55 seconds into the episode. Originally aired October 16th, 2005.)

6.   Media Reference #3: Tom Arnold's character of "Albert Gibson" uses this  expression in a conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger's character of "Harry Tasker" regarding the latter's daughter in the 1994 film True Lies: Albert: "I mean, kids they are now are ten years ahead of where we were at the same age. I’ll bet you think she's still a virgin." / Harry: "Don't be ridiculous. She's only… What is she now?" / Albert: "She’s fourteen years old, Harry." / Harry: "She’s only 14." / Albert: "Her little hormones are going like a fire alarm. I say even money she lets that physicist on the bike boink her." / Harry: "No. Not Dana." / Albert: "Denial. It’s not just a river in Egypt anymore, is it Harry?  She's probably stealing the money to pay for an abortion." (At 19 minutes and 40 seconds into the film.)

7.   Media Reference #4: Al Franken's recurring character of "Stuart Smalley" on the NBC series Saturday Night Live often uses this expression. For example, in season 17, episode 1, "Stuart Smalley" interviews basketball star Michael Jordan:  Stuart: "Michael, I know that there must be a lot of pressure for you to play very well, and I can imagine that, the night before a game, you must lie awake, thinking 'I'm not good enough. Uh... everyone is better than me. I'm not going to score any points. I have no business playing this game.'" / Michael: "Well, not really." / Stuart: "Michael, denial ain't just a river in Egypt." (At 2 minutes and 17 seconds into the segment. Originally aired September 28th, 1991.)