Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 564

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

From: John Pratt (john johnpratt.com)
Subject: names

Names are incredibly important and magic, to use your word. I'm a scientist and have learned to coin new names to describe new concepts. It is so important to get the name right: one that instantly gives the idea, will be unusual enough to be found with search engines, etc.

I'm a Mormon (LDS). One early member of our church left it because God misspelled his name in a revelation to him.

John Pratt, Orem, Utah

From: Mary Burdette (burdette roadrunner.com)
Subject: names

Somehow there being only one person who looked upon the unclothed lady doesn't quite resonate with me. I bet there were others, such as:

peeping Baron and Baroness of Kensington (who nine months later had twins)
peeping Viceroy of Warwickshire (who later went blind)
peeping Friar James (better known as One-Eyed Jack)
peeping Lord Godiva (soon to become a chocolatier extraordinaire)

and probably more.

Mary Burdette, Hammondsport, New York

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Lady Godiva

Not only is there no evidence that legend is true, but (sorry, I don't have a reference) Coventry was her own property (not her husband's), so she could have reduced the taxes there by her own decision. Her name was written "Godgifu", but "Godiva" reflects how it was pronounced.

Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Allan Mortenson (drmortesp yahoo.com)
Subject: Peeping Tom

Lady Godiva was said to ride side saddle. Half the crowd along the road cheered her with: "Hurrah for our side!" Most revealing!

Allan Mortenson, Ripon, Wisconsin

From: Steven G. Kellman (kellman1 gmail.com)
Subject: Nice Nelly

Even more common than nice Nelly is the epithet nervous Nellie. According to the OED, it was first used in 1925 to describe US Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg's timorousness about joining the League of Nations. In a broadcast speech in 2002, President George W. Bush, piqued that not everyone in his own administration was as enthusiastic as he was about invading Iraq, complained that "there's a lot of nervous Nellies at the Pentagon." We need a few nervous Nellies to impede us from our follies.

Steven G. Kellman, San Antonio, Texas

From: Leslie R. Weatherhead (lwLibertas aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosy parker

A tour guide on a recent visit to London attributed Nosey Parker to Matthew Parker, a sixteenth century Archbishop of Canterbury, who apparently made a point of prying into parishioners' compliance with church rules.

Leslie R. Weatherhead, Spokane, Washington

Some have attributed the origin of the term to the Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker (1504-1575), however, there's no evidence to support that claim. The earliest documented use for the term is found a good 300 years later. There are many other (unsubstantiated) stories as well about the origin of this term. Read on.
-Anu Garg

From: Chuck Lawrence (chuck radiomundi.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosy parker

I have no citations, but I always thought this was (or was derived from) nosy PORKER, from the tendency of pigs to root out acorns, truffles, etc. with their noses.

Chuck Lawrence, Oakland, California

From: Sue Slaughter (sslaughter1 q.com)
Subject: nosy parker

My mother used the term "nosy POKER" when we were kids...as in poking your nose into someone else's business!

Sue Slaughter, Aurora, Colorado

From: Louise Byron (londonlouise gmail.com)
Subject: nosy parker

Nosy Parker comes from a British comic of the 1950s if memory serves me right. He was a nosy man, of course, and as the comic was popular the term spread into the population.

Louise Byron, Magnetic Island, Australia

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: Nosey Parker

In his autobiography, My Life & Times, 1966, the Scottish author Compton Mackenzie connects the original nosy parker to one who played Peeping Tom to couples making love in Hyde Park. This makes for an unexpected, but hardly surprising, link between two of this week's words.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, Cornwall, UK

From: Vicki Baker (vbaker trcc.commnet.edu)
Subject: nosy parker

Didn't Dorothy Sayers have a Scotland Yard detective named Parker?

Vicki Baker, Norwich, Connecticut

From: Gail Rendle (renrdg nep.net)
Subject: nosy parker

The way I learned it in my family, a nosy parker is a person who parks his/her nose where it doesn't necessarily belong. It has nothing to do with someone "named Parker". It's more closely related to "Parky-carcass" the name my grandmother gave to her cat, because he would park his carcass wherever he wanted to, especially on her favorite chair!

Gail Rendle, Nicholson, Pennsylvania

From: Matt Melchert (gerbildad gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosy parker

I have heard that the "parker" in "nosy Parker" doesn't refer to a person named Parker. Before television, people used to go to the park with their opera glasses to see who was walking with whom, and which couples disappeared into the bushes together. Hence the term "nosy parker" with a lower case "p".

Matt Melchert

From: Edward Smythe (smythed7 gmail.com)
Subject: Nosy parker

In a statistics class at UCONN in '95 I was taught that the name arose during a breakout of an infectious disease (I think typhoid) in London. To find the source, which some thought was waterborne, they interviewed people in the infected areas as to what well they used for their water. The organizer was apparently a person named Parker so the interviewers, who seemed nosy, were called nosy Parkers. The result was successful, the well was identified by a statistical reduction of the data, cordoned off and the spread of the disease halted.

Edward Smythe, Danbury, Connecticut

I strongly suspect this anecdote pertains to an outbreak of cholera not typhoid. The cholera outbreak was investigated by Dr. John Snow not someone named Parker. Dr. Snow traced clusters of cholera deaths to a water pump not a well, and the pump was not "cordoned off": the pump handle was removed.
-David Ferrier, Edmonton, Canada (ferrierd shaw.ca)

From: Peirce Hammond (peirce_hammond ed.gov)
Subject: Doubting Thomas

Ever notice how many Doubting Thomases are from Missouri?

Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--doubting Thomas

In French, Thomas was supposed to have said about authenticating Jesus's wound in his chest (courtesy of a Roman guard) "I will not believe it until I can touch the wound."

In French, the word for touch is toucher. That word means also "to collect (money)". Landlords often use the expression when told that the tenants have corrected their delinquency; "I'll believe it when I can touch it (collect it)."

Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: Re: lazy Susan

When my mom, who taught cooking, remodeled the kitchen in our family home, she took the lazy Susan idea to the limit. Noting that a corner of the kitchen was dead space, she had a floor to ceiling 3/4 lazy Susan built there as a pantry. When closed, it just looked like the walls meeting in a corner, but if you pushed on it -- voilà! -- the pantry would appear.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Stephen du Toit (stephen magicfactory.org.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lazy Susan

We had one at home, which had to be called the turntable, as my sister Susan objected. Being an ingeniously obnoxious child, I suggested calling it a lazy sibling. She still objected.

Stephen du Toit, London, UK

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! -- Letter-perfect fun.)

From: Joan Perrin (perrinjoan aol.com)
Subject: Words coined after proper names

Lady Godiva's Tweets. "I didn't think you'd do it," said Doubting Thomas. "I wouldn't have made the effort," replied lazy Susan. "I should be much too modest to ride like that," demurred nice nelly. "Were you really n*ked?" probed nosy parker. "I'll say she was!" laughed peeping Tom.

Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York

From: Monroe Thomas Clewis (mtc265 yahoo.com)
Subject: Nellies and Toms -- a bad rap

What is there about Nellie and Tom, proper names which have collected mostly pejorative idioms like magnets? For example, "nervous Nellie" (a timid or worrisome person), "nice Nelly" (prudish, excessively modest, or euphemistic), "Not on your Nelly!" (old fashioned), "Nellie" (effeminate), "Whoa Nellie!" (Stop!)

"Every Tom, Dick, and Harry" (ordinary people, everyone without discrimination), "Uncle Tom" (Black person over-eager to please Whites), "Doubting Thomas" (habitual skeptic), "Peeping Tom" (voyeur).

Time for the Nellies and Toms of the world to bring class actions for discrimination?

Monroe Thomas Clewis, Kunming, China

From: Marie Holley (marie.holley gmail.com)
Subject: Proper names/words

The term Molly Mormon fits in with this week's theme, which is "words coined after proper names". Molly Mormon has to do with someone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints background who is very strict in following all the rules, a real goody-goody. I am Mormon and we use this term all the time with each other in a humorous way.

Marie Holley, California

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith