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So, what is a "nosey parker"?
One suggestion, put forward by Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, was that the saying dates from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. Very large numbers of people attended the Exhibition, so there would have been lots of opportunities for peeping Toms and eavesdroppers in the grounds. The word parker has since medieval times been used for an official in charge of a park, a park-keeper; The term was used informally for the royal park-keepers who supervised Hyde Park at the time of the Great Exhibition. So the saying might conceivably have been applied to a nosey park-keeper.
Another idea, put forward in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, is that the phrase nosey Parker was originally nose-poker. Poker, in the sense of somebody who pries into another's affairs, certainly has a long history, well pre-dating the nineteenth century appearance of nosey Parker. It is not impossible that nose-poker became modified with the second element being converted into a proper name. Stranger things have happened. But evidence is suspiciously lacking: the Oxford English Dictionary has no record of nose-poker anywhere.
The most usual origin suggested is Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century. He was a reforming cleric, noted for sending out detailed inquiries and instructions relating to the conduct of his diocese. Like many reformers, he was regarded as a busybody.
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