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Some years ago a former co-student from Oosaka taught me the expression なんでやねん. He said it is Oosaka slang and it could be used in all kinds of funny or awkward situations, meaning something along the line of "What the hell?". However I dimly remember to have read somewhere else that this expression can be offending or inappropriate.

So my questions are:

  • What does this expression literally mean?

  • In what situations (business, friends, ...) and which places (only in Oosaka, other places in Japan) can it safely be used to get a comical effect?

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なんでやねん literally means "Why is that". なんで is "why", や is a Kansai copula ("だ"), ねん is a Kansai sentence-end particle. So in standard Japanese, it's なんでだよ or どうしてだよ.

なんでやねん is considered as the most typical phrase of a ツッコミ character. Unless you are a natural-born Kansai-ben speaker, this is not used to truly offend someone. People who don't speak Kansa-ben use it almost always to get a comedic effect, as shown in the link. Basically you can use it whenever someone said a nice ボケ. Refrain from saying it to your boss, though. And you don't have to try to use it until you understand most of the jokes Japanese people make. Even many native Japanese people can't use なんでやねん at the right timing, after all.

EDIT: Oh, when you use なんでやねん it's vitally important to simulate the Kansai accent regardless of your birthplace. It's なんでやねん{LLHLLL} (video clip).

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    Don't worry, the guy who taught me this expression paid special attention to me putting the accent on the で ;) – elzell Mar 8 '17 at 8:33

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