Prying and nosiness

English is of course full of expressions, and some that spring to mind, perhaps as evidence of our love of privacy, are “nosey parker” and “poking one’s nose in

Nosey, as one might expect, has long been used to describe people with a prominent nose, and by extension to people interested in others’ business. The image is of course of someone whose nose is so big that it goes first into someone’s affairs, literally poking one’s nose in, so as to get a better look.DSC03269

So what about the addition of the word Parker? Well, this apparently began in the 1900s with a comic postcard character named Nosey Parker. Why was this name chosen? We cannot be completely sure. Some suggest that it was a random choice of a fairly common surname, it could just as easily have been Smith or Bloggs. Others claim that it came from the dialect word “pawk” (be nosey), or even from “peek“.

The folk etymology, which would have us believe that the expression originated with Matthew Parker, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, seems unlikely, as the earliest citations of the expression come around 300 years after he died, and nothing in the intervening time.


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