Wednesday, 10 October 2012
A whinner-neb is defined is Grose's Provincial Glossary (1787) as:
A meagre, thin-faced man, with a sharp nose.
It amused me to find this word in a dictionary because, at the time, I was sitting in the British Library and it was the perfect description of the chap sitting opposite me. I rather wanted to lean over and hiss the words "Whinner-Neb!", just to see his reaction. But I felt much too sorry for him. And anyway, I sometimes fear I'm a whinner-neb myself.
Grose speculates that the term is "Perhaps from some bird that feeds or is bred among whins", where whins is another word for gorse.