Saturday, 16 April 2011

'N' is for ... Namby Pamby

How many of you have heard the phrase, ‘namby-pamby?’
It’s a phrase I love although hopefully no-one could ever accuse me of being namby-pamby!

If someone is considered namby-pamby they would lack character, substance or courage, and be insipid, weak, and indecisive.

Here are a few examples of how it may be used for those who might not be familiar with it:
-‘Gerard couldn’t understand how Sheila could dote over any dog, let alone a ‘namby-pamby’ poodle.’
- ‘Stop being so ruddy namby-pamby and tackle your opponent!’
- 'It wasn't a namby-pamby cat fight, but a brutal affair where hair was ripped from her scalp...'

The phrase ‘Namby-Pamby’came from a derisory term given to the English poet and playwright, Ambrose Philips (1674 - 1749) When he became tutor to George I's grandchildren, the raised position and status rather went to his head and he started writing ingratiating, sentimental poems in praise of children, written in affected, insipid nursery language.

His work was derided by rival poets and playwrights, especially Henry Carey and Alexander Pope. They thought his sentimental, singsong verses were too childish and simple. Around 1725, Carey came up with the rhyming nickname 'Namby-Pamby' (playing on "Ambrose") to parody Philips and created a satirical version to imitate the cloying nursery style. Carey was the first to put the poem, Namby Pamby, into print, around 1725:
All ye poets of the age,
All ye witlings of the stage …
Namby-Pamby is your guide,
Albion's joy, Hibernia's pride.
Namby-Pamby, pilly-piss,
Rhimy-pim'd on Missy Miss
Tartaretta Tartaree
From the navel to the knee;
That her father's gracy grace
Might give him a placy place.

Before long, the term ‘namby-pamby’ began to be used to describe a style of insipidly precious, simple, or sentimental writing and over the years, the connotation widened to more of a general disparagement, and 'namby-pamby' entered the language to refer to anything that was considered weak or indecisive.

Something else you might not know is that 'namby-pamby' was the inspiration for the name of the children's television character, Andy Pandy – a puppet that featured in the Watch With Mother classic series which started on the BBC in the 1950’s. It was one of the first programmes especially for children and I remember loving it when I was a little girl in the late 60’s.

So there you have my ‘N’ word in the A-Z challenge;
‘N’ is for ‘Namby-Pamby

Until another day
Bye for now


Bev Hankins said...

Great choice for N. I'm acquainted with "Namby-Pamby" but had no idea of the origins.

Talli Roland said...

I absolutely love that phrase! :)

Fran said...

Love Carey's poem. Bitchy or what?

Ellie said...

I love your blog header - it's so unique.

Namby pamby. I haven't heard that phrase in years!

Ellie Garratt

Deborah Lawrenson said...

No, I didn't know it was the basis for Andy Pandy (whom I loathed and detested as a child!).

We don't use the term in our family, we say "It's a bit Softy-Walter" after the Beano character, foe of Dennis the Menace!

Brianna said...

Wow! I've heard the expression before but never knew its origin. Thanks for sharing that!

Josh Hoyt said...

I have never heard of this phrase before. Very interesting. I like the history and poem that go with it.

Karen Walker said...

I have heard the term, but didn't know it's origins, nor how it should be used probably. I love it.

Siv Maria said...


Frances said...

Thank you for giving us the background on Namby Pamby. I've know the term for ages and ages, and never even wondered about its source. Quite interesting.

(That poem was a doozie, too. Now...I wonder where doozie came from.) xo

Bish Denham said...

Okay I have definitely learned something new today, which is ALWAYS a good thing. And it is certainly a term I heard mostly as child from the adults. Haven't heard it in a long time.

Susie Swanson said...

Well I've definitely learned something new today. So glad I stopped by. So informative.. Susie

Claire Goverts said...

Lovely post, the history behind namby pamby is great. Though whenever I hear or read the phrase now I have the tv commercial guy's voice stuck in my head. I forget what the product was but the premise of the commercial was an army drill sergeant as a therapist.

stacey said...

No, you are NO namby pamby... although I HAVE heard of that phrase and your post cracks me up!!!! totally following your blog now!
Thanks for dropping by my copost with Serendipity's Library! What a blast!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Love that phrase, but I didn't know the origin of it, so thanks for that! I used to watch Andy Pandy and all the other Watch with Mother shows. Never knew that about his name but it makes perfect sense!

Writer Pat J said...

Aaaa.... I'd forgetten all about Andy Pandy! Talk about a blast from the past...

Theresa Milstein said...

I am pretty confident you are the ONLY person to use "namby pamby" for the A to Z Challenge. Did you consider nincompoop?

I like the poem too.

Kristy said...

I love quirky phrases like that. I also enjoy a good "neither here nor there," because it is just so full of bullshit. I also like "willy nilly," as in, "You can't just run around here all willy-nilly like!" I often shout that when I am doing my second grade lunch duty.

Langley said...

I love the word(s) namby-pamby but did not know about the origins. Super N choice!

I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

Julia Smith said...

Love that shot of the toys! And great choice for N.

Melissa Sarno said...

Thank you so much for teaching me about namby- pamby. I am definitely going to use that word. Love it!

Lynda R Young said...

Yep I was familiar with the phrase but it's been a long time since I've heard it. Cool to learn about its origins.