nooking (necking? nookie?)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Oct 4 06:57:38 UTC 2005

I came across two 1923 references to "nooking" in Atlanta Consitution
articles by Helen Bullitt Lowry on the subject of flappers:

1923 _Atlanta Constitution_ 10 June (Magazine) 11/1 The latest slang for
"petting" is "nooking." Let that tell the tale.
1923 _Atlanta Constitution_ 24 June (Magazine) 10/3 This is a basic
principle — this thing of not frightening the men. It seems to affect the
technique equally of the two outstanding types of 1923's flapper: These
two types are the "sheika" which is the feminine of sheik in Webster's
Unabridged of the slang of 1923), and the athletic girl who is just the
one-of-us-boys type. ... But this season's sheika has to be up on the
metaphysics of nooking. For the first time since the salons of the
eighteenth century, pseudo-clever conversation and daring ideas in girls
are being not only tolerated, but actively encouraged.

"Nooking" may have been a playful variant of "necking", evoking the
secluded "nooks" where such activities took place. Could this also have
been the forerunner of "nooky/nookie" (OED/MWCD/HDAS 1928)? OED and MWCD
tentatively suggest a connection to the noun "nook", and "nooking" might
provide the missing link.

--Ben Zimmer

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