a "nonce" story--and another faux acronym?

Jonathon Green slang at ABECEDARY.NET
Thu Jun 2 16:17:04 UTC 2005

My sources suggest that 'nonce' as 'Not On Normal Communal Excercise' is
indeed a false acronym. Sex offenders are indeed often segregated in UK
prisons, usually at their own request, and this is known as 'going on
Rule 43' (which rule provides for voluntary solitary confinement for the
sake of a prisoner’s safety) or being 'on the rule'..

The first cite I have is from 1970, which also suggests an etymology:

1970 Tony Parker _The Frying-Pan_ 39: ‘Nonces’ is short for ‘nonsenses’:
sex cases, professional mental patients who live in a world of their
own, they never really talk to anyone.

An article in the _Police Review_ of 18 May 1984 suggests a possible
link to 'nancy-boy', an effeminate/gay (young) male, but while some
child-molesters may well be gay, the word deals with all molesters. It
may well tell us more about police prejudices than etymology. The OED's
suggestion of a link to a UK (Lincolnshire) dialect term 'nonse',
meaning a 'good-for-nothing', which seems nearer the Parker quote (taken
from an interview with a serving prisoner), suggesting that one who is a
'nonsense' is of no human value, appears far more likely. 'Nonce',
although I have but a single example, and that from 1999, can be used as
a simple abbreviation of SE 'nonsense'.

FWIW, contemporary prisoners, while using 'nonce', also use 'beast',
with its verb 'to beast', i.e. to subject a child to molestation. (The
online OED has a 1994 cite combining both terms).

Jonathon Green

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