Word of the Day: namby-pamby

2 CQ

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 20, 2016 is:

namby-pamby • \nam-bee-PAM-bee\  • adjective

1 : lacking in character or substance : insipid

2 : weak , indecisive


John complained that the movie was a namby-pamby romance with too much dialogue and not enough action.

"I go to a barber for a haircut and clip my own nails, and would rather smell broccoli cooking for a week than go to some namby-pamby  spa place to get … my body kneaded like a loaf of over-fermented Wonder Bread." — Michael Penkava, The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, Illinois), 27 Feb. 2016

Did you know?

Eighteenth-century poets Alexander Pope and Henry Carey didn't think much of their contemporary Ambrose Philips. His sentimental, singsong verses were too childish and simple for their palates. In 1726, Carey came up with the rhyming nickname Namby-Pamby (playing on Ambrose ) to parody Philips: "Namby-Pamby's doubly mild / Once a man and twice a child ... / Now he pumps his little wits / All by little tiny bits." In 1729, Pope borrowed the nickname to take his own satirical jab at Philips in the poem "The Dunciad." Before long, namby-pamby was being applied to any piece of writing that was insipidly precious, simple, or sentimental, and later to anyone considered pathetically weak or indecisive.

Aired August 20, 2016

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