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Word of the Week

14 Jan

niminy-piminy, adj.
[‘Mincing, affected; without force, drive, or spirit.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌnɪmᵻnɪˈpɪmᵻni/, U.S. /ˈnɪmᵻniˈpɪmᵻni/
Forms: 17–18 nimini-pimini, 18 nimeny-pimeny, 18– niminy-piminy.
Etymology:Imitative of affected speech (see quot. 17861 at main sense), perhaps after namby-pamby adj. Compare miminy-piminy adj. and perhaps also mimp n. and adj.
Mincing, affected; without force, drive, or spirit.
Quots. 17861 may show use as an interjection

  • 1786 J. Burgoyne Heiress iii ii. 55 Lady Emily… You have only, when before your glass, to keep pronouncing to yourself nimini-primini. Miss Alscrip. Nimini-pimini-imini, mimini—oh, it’s delightfully enfantine.
  • 1786 G White Let. 25 Mar. in R. Holt-White Life & Lett. G. White (1901) II. 154, I hope you practice every day at your Glass; and that you are by this time perfect mistress of ‘Nimini pimini’.
  • 1801 Monthly Rev. 35 324 With..a smirking countenance, and ‘nimeny pimeny’ lisp.
  • 1822 L. Hunt Indicator No. 23 I. 178 To see her proud, affected, niminy-piminy face in.
  • 1830 J. Jekyll Corr. (1894) 221 She..is an exquisite, her husband a nimini pimini gentleman.
  • 1840 Thackeray in Fraser’s Mag. July 115/2 But was there ever such a niminypiminy subject treated in such a niminypiminy way?
  • a1894 R. L. Stevenson St. Ives (1898) xxv. 190 A niminy-piminy creature, afraid of a petticoat and a bottle.
  • 1945 R. Hargreaves Enemy at Gate 45 That niminy-piminy, shallow, self-conscious intellectualism.
  • 1985 R. Davies What’s bred in Bone (1986) v. 300 Parents are terribly niminy-piminy about telling their children these things.
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