eggcorn?: mamby-pamby (1823)

Clai Rice cxr1086 at LOUISIANA.EDU
Mon Mar 26 17:01:05 UTC 2007

The political editor in our local paper today used the
phrase "mamby-pamby language and knee-jerk liberals". Maybe
it was a misprint? I checked Google and found 36,600 ghits,
with namby-pamby getting 348,000 (with lots of dictionary
entries etc.).

Google Books came up with some interesting results. One was
for C. S. Lewis (who signs his letters "Jack"?):
Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. I - Page 374
by C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis, Walter Hooper - 2004 - 1072
"I don't agree with you about Trollope's being mamby pamby:
in fact the sentimental part seems to me very slightly
sketched and only to serve as a turning ..."
29 May 1918, Letter to Arthur Greeves, p. 374

Lots of hits from the last half of 19th C., and also this one:
Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union - Page 427
by Robert Vincent Remini - 1991 - 818 pages
Francis Granger of New York called the speech "mamby pamby."
Never had Clay delivered "so washy an affair." And his
tariff bill was a "perfect death blow to ..."

I can't access page 427, but judging form the text content,
the date would be about 1833.

So I jumped over to America's Historical Newspapers 1690-1876:

Headline: Catchpenny Impositions; Article Type: News/Opinion
Paper: Columbian Centinel, published as American Federalist
Columbian Centinel; Date: 03-05-1823; Issue: 4059; Page:
[2]; Location: Boston, Massachusetts.
Full Text:
Catchpenny Imposition. An article is going the rounds of the
American papers, purporting to be a Funeral Oration
delivered by Count Bertrand over the tomb of Buonaparte, at
St. Helena; and at which General Lowe is said to have
attended and to have shed tears! This is another of
mamby-pamby productions of which the times are pregnant.
Every one acquainted with the history of Buonaparte's
confinement, death, and burial at St. Helena, knows, that no
such oration was delivered, and that the article is of a
piece of the productions published by Warren, O'Meara, and
Las Casas.

It seems to be an eggcorn with a history, the "mam"
reinforcing the denotation of 'feminine'.

I don't have access to, but they tell
me if I sign up I can view the 147 hits for mamby-pamby.

--Clai Rice

The American Dialect Society -

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