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(See also CURIOSITY.)
finger in the pie Meddlesome officiousness because of one’s interest in a matter or concern; an interest or share in some endeavor or enterprise; a piece of the pie or the action. This expression may derive from the propensity of some children to taste “Mom’s apple pie” by sticking a finger into it, often using “But I helped” as an excuse. Though the child may have had an interest or share in the project, his sticking a finger in does nothing to improve the final product. Though the expression may refer to legitimate or innocuous involvement, finger in the pie usually implies interference of a harmful or malicious nature.
The devil speed him! no man’s pie is freed
From his ambitious finger. (Shakespeare, Henry VIII, I, i)
gatemouth One who knows and discusses the affairs of others; a gossip, busybody. This American expression, deriving from Black English, implies that the “gate” to the mouth of a gossipmonger is perpetually opening and closing.
go between the bark and the tree To intervene in the private concerns of intimates; most specifically, to meddle in the affairs of husband and wife.
An instigator of quarrels between man and wife, or, according to the plebian but expressive apophthegm, one who would come between the bark and the tree. (Maria Edgeworth, Modern Griselda, 1804)
See also close as the bark to the tree, FRIENDSHIP.
guardhouse lawyer One who presumptuously gives advice; one who discusses matters of which he knows nothing. This expression is traced to soldiers who, deeming themselves authorities on military law, counsel their peers on a variety of military matters Today, the term is often used disparagingly to describe a pretentious meddler.
Meddlesome Matty An officious meddler, a busybody; one with a finger in every pie and an ear to every keyhole. This epithet, from the title of a poem by Ann Taylor, has been in common American use since the early 1800s. Webster’s Third cites a contemporary usage by Walter Lippmann:
When men insist that morality is more than that, they are quickly denounced … as Meddlesome Matties.
Nosey Parker A busybody, a sticky-beak. Apparently originally a descriptive term for one with an excessively large nose, nosey became in concept nosy ‘inquisitive, prying’ and the epithet is now restricted to that usage.
“But Nosey Parker is what I call him,” she said. “He minds everybody’s business as well as his own.” (P. G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh, 1915)
Paul Pry A busybody, a meddler; a nosy, interfering person. Paul Pry was the meddlesome hero of a play by the same name written by Englishman John Poole in 1825. A popular Briticism, the phrase is relatively unknown in the United States.
The magistrate … ought to be a perfect jack-of-all-trades … Paul Pry in every house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving, admonishing [etc.]. (Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 1829)
put in one’s oar To interfere in another’s affairs; to meddle in private matters; to intrude or butt in. This expression, a shortening of the original put one’s oar in another’s boat, is still heard occasionally.
Now, don’t you put your oar in, young woman. You’d best stand out of the way, you had! (Sir Walter Besant, The Children of Gibeon, 1886)
quidnunc A busybody or gossip. This expression, derived from the literal translation of the Latin quid nunc ‘what now?’, was first used in Arthur Murphy’s The Upholsterer, or What News? (1757). The term maintains some frequency in the United States and Great Britain.
He was a sort of scandalous chronicle of the quidnuncs of Granada. (Washington Irving, The Alhambra, 1832)
stickybeak A busybody, quidnunc, or newsmonger. This Australian slang term clearly alludes to someone who thrusts his nose into everyone else’s business.