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Namby-pamby

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  • Namby-pamby is an interesting word because it was invented to describe a certain person and his work. We will look at the definition of the word namby-pamby, who invented it and why, as well as some examples of its use in a few sentences.

    Namby-pamby describes something or someone who is feeble, weak, ineffectual, maudlin and overly sentimental. The term namby-pamby was coined in 1725 by the writer Henry Carey to describe a rival writer and poet, Ambrose Philips. Philips was the tutor to the grandchildren of the king. He wrote maudlin and sentimental poetry about the children of the nobility in order to curry favor. Henry Carey and his friend, the great writer Alexander Pope, held Philips in disdain. Carey wrote a poem as parody, mocking the style of Ambrose Philips in his publication Poems on Several Occasions.  The work was called Namby Pamby: or, a panegyrick on the new versification address’d to A—– P—-. The term namby-pamby was a play on Philips’ first name, Ambrose. Referring to someone as a namby-pamby is an insult. The plural form is namby-pambies.

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    Examples

    “I ate worms, my son ate worms, and by God, no namby-pamby, city pen-pusher is going to stop my grandson eating worms!” (The Daily Nation)

    The initial impulse of Justice Secretary Liz Truss, brought in by Theresa May in July to replace Michael Gove, was to teach those namby-pamby, wrist-slitting crybaby convicts a bit of stiff upper lip. Ex-forces personnel would, she announced, be sent into prisons.  (The Independent)

    Donald Trump says NFL football has gone soft, a bunch of namby-pambies no longer allowed the constitutional freedom to use their heads as battering rams.  (The Westman Journal)

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