• stickybeak •
sti-ki-beek • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A nosy person, a snooper, someone who pries into other people's business, a busybody, a meddler in other people's affairs.
Notes: Here is a funny word that our Australian and New Zealander readers will recognize, if not those in North America and the UK. It differs from gossip(er) in that implies nothing about repeating what a stickybeak finds out, but repetition might occur. It has an abstract action noun, stickybeaking, because you may use this noun as a verb meaning "to snoop": stickybeaks, stickybeaked, stickybeaking.
In Play: Today's Good Word plays on the slang metaphorical use of beak in reference to the nose of a human: "Why don't you ask that old stickybeak Miss Marple: she knows everything about everybody." Notice that all is not bad in stickybeaks; they make the best detectives. You may use today's word as a verb, too: "I might find out what they really think about me only if I could stickybeak their secret discussion of my personnel report."
Word History: Stickybeak is, of course, wrought of two words: sticky and beak. Sticky is an adjective created by combining the verb stick + the suffix -y. In Greek we find a word from the same Proto-Indo-European root, steig- "to stick, pointed", in stizein "to prick, tattoo". We know this word had a Fickle N because it emerged in Latin as stingere "to quench, extinguish", probably from the notion that if you puncture someone, they usually die. It may have had a Fickle S, too. The word tiger was lent to English by Greek. The Greek word tigris "tiger" was borrowed from Old Persian tigra "sharp, pointed". We all know which part of a tiger is pointed and sharp and, should a tiger latch onto someone, it pretty much sticks to that person.
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