"snubbing your nose"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon May 7 23:39:08 UTC 2007

Doug may be right, but I for one never noticed the "closed-fist snook" gesture he posits, either in reality or on film. Wiggling the fingers is _de rigeur_ as far as I'm concerned.

  Google Book Search does reveal a number of exx. of "snubbed his nose at." Most appear to be from within the past decade, but the earliest certain one (barring a worse-than-usual Google "twist" - I checked the pub. date  in WorldCat)  is from a Canadian (n.b.) book of 1984.

  An alleged 1971 ex. from a public-domain U.S. Congressional publication cannot be viewed. I guess there's some byzantine restriction on inspecting public documents now. Goak. (Or is it?)

  My theory is that "snub" replaced "thumb" for some speakers because the thumb very commonly pushes the nose back and up while the fingers wiggle. Experiment shows that in that case the  pressure against the tip of the nose is the most salient sensation.

  Why pugilists should touch or rub their noses seems to me to be a different question entirely.


"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
Subject: Re: "snubbing your nose"

I don't think "snub the nose" generally means/meant "rub"/"dab"/etc.

I think "snub" here means/meant "make snub[bed]" where the "snub[bed] nose"
is one which is short [and tilted up at the tip]. This meaning is shown
(verb "snub") in the old _Century Dictionary_, I think. There are
unequivocal old examples: e.g., try <<"snubbed his nose">> at Google Books
between (say) 1800 and 1950.

So I think "snub one's [own] nose" should mean "push the tip of one's [own]
nose back [and up]". Close enough to cocking a snook, I think, maybe: are
the waggling fingers really essential?

Several old examples of "snubbing [apparently essentially flattening] one's
nose" (against a wall or window etc.) are available.

However I don't find it clearly as a derisory gesture very far back.

Easy to imagine how the pushing of one's own nose-tip up and back MIGHT
express "I turn up my nose at that/you" or so. But I don't know whether it
ever really did.

There are old examples of "snubbing [someone else's] nose" but I can't make
out exactly whether this usually involved a push, a punch, or what.

-- Doug Wilson

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.467 / Virus Database: 269.6.5/793 - Release Date: 5/7/2007 2:55 PM

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Ahhh...imagining that irresistible "new car" smell?
 Check outnew cars at Yahoo! Autos.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list