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Prodnose

Pronounced /ˈprɒdnəʊz/Help with pronunciation

This is principally British, an apt descriptive term for a pedantic and interfering person, one who is always poking his nose in where it’s not wanted. A recent example:

And life is like that: in the depths of extreme personal grief there is always some official prodnose of a parking authority or bullying tax inspector to harass you into intemperate rage against the universe.

The Sunday Times, 18 Apr. 2009.

Its genesis was a surrealistic column in the Daily Express with the title By The Way, often witty but as often bafflingly off-beat and obscure. For many years it was written by the humorist J B Morton, who introduced his readers to many strange characters, such as Mr Justice Cocklecarrot, who presided over the recurring case of the twelve red-bearded dwarves. The eccentric scientist, Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht made frequent appearances. So did that archetypal cad Captain Foulenough, who attended the notorious public school Narkover, which specialised in horse-racing, card-playing and bribery under the supervision of its headmaster, the dubious Dr Smart-Allick. Prodnose was a character who represented the general public, a pedantic oaf who interrupted Beachcomber and had to be booted out.

Reporters found prodnose to be an excellent term to describe subeditors, because — in the view of the reporters — they were continually asking awkward questions and pedantically correcting the text of their pieces. For that reason, when the term appears — which isn’t often — it is usually in newspaper columns.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 11 Sep. 2010

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-pro2.htm
Last modified: 11 September 2010.