A Wordorigins.org post mentions an NPR correspondent talking about someone on a bicycle “having a looky-loo”:

The show’s host remarked that he believed it was the first time in NPR’s history that the term “looky-loo” had been broadcast. It made me smile. The term is quite common here in Oklahoma where, for example, after a tornado, there is sometimes a problem with traffic from all the “looky-loos”, or people “having a looky-loo” at the damage. I’ve always kind of thought it was a regional term, but perhaps it is more widespread.

One commenter says “I’m familiar with it (born and raised in Southern California). FWIW, I’ve always thought of the term as a bit old-fashioned (in a good way), but not necessarily regional”; Dave Wilton, who runs the site, says “IIRC, DARE, which I don’t have in front of my, says it’s predominantly a Californism.” I checked Jonathon Green’s Cassell Dictionary of Slang (sadly, I no longer have access to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which I wrote about here), and it says “lookie-loo, looky-loo n. [1980s+] (US Black/campus) an inquisitive person, a peeping Tom.” I asked my wife if she knew the term, and she said she’d heard it recently but couldn’t say where, or what it meant; I don’t think I’ve ever heard it myself, though I spent years in Southern California (of course, that was decades ago). So: are you familiar with this term? If you use it yourself, do you use it to refer to the gawker or the act of gawking (“having a looky-loo”)?


  1. I’ve known and used it for decades here around Boston in the real-estate sense of a window shopper, someone who goes to open houses for entertainment / curiosity, which might be the original meaning. The disaster spectator sense is unremarkable now, too. And, for me, it’s a person, not an act.

  2. rootlesscosmo says

    I believe I first read “looky-Lou” (spelled that way, as if Lou were a name–cf. “nosy Parker”) in a newspaper article in–I think–the 1970’s. It referred to people who make a habit of visiting open houses for sale, with no interest in buying a house but purely for the fun of seeing the interior. The term was disparaging, implying that they waste the real estate sales person’s time.

  3. In California, I have heard it only as referring to the observer, not the act, and only with regard to traffic slowdowns. The traffic is said to slow down not only because of the accident or the construction, but because of all the lookie-loos, who slow down to see what is going on. I have only heard the term, not seen it, so I don’t know about the spelling. I have only heard it used pejoratively, but I always felt that it made no sense to disparage “lookie-loos” because I think that slowing down for road hazards makes for safer driving.

  4. My wife says she learned the term from the CBC traffic reports in Toronto. She’s originally from Ohio.

  5. Sounds vaguely familiar, but if I’ve ever heard it used in the NYC great metropolitan area, it’s been in an extremely hick-jokey sort of way.
    Slight derail, but what the phrase immediately brings to my mind is the old Morris cartoon, Lucky Luke (and Kid Luke). The strip dates from 1946, if Comic Vine is to be believed, which raises the question, where would a Belgian have come across the expression? Old Zane Grey books? (Assuming, of course, that I’m right about the connection.)

  6. I remember hearing it in an episode of “Battlestar Galactica”–Starbuck applies it in some context to the people looking, not the act. I already knew the term, but found it very strange coming from her. Seemed both out of character and out of place in the show.

  7. The traffic is said to slow down not only because of the accident or the construction, but because of all the lookie-loos, who slow down to see what is going on.
    Around here, these are known as rubbernecking delays. It’s quite common to have an accident on one side of the road but for traffic on both sides to be slowed or even stopped because of rubbernecking. The image is of someone craning his neck to see something better, but I have not heard rubberneck used for the people who do it.
    The OED3 does have entries for rubberneck, though, both noun and verb:
    rubberneck, n.
    colloq. (orig. and chiefly U.S.).
    A person who stares, a gawper; an overly inquisitive person; (also) a sightseer, a tourist.
    1894 Marion (Ohio) Daily Star 28 July 2/1 ‘Rubberneck’ is one of the latest words that has sprung into the language of slang. It … is defined as one who is continually peeping around or attending to some one else’s business.
    1895 M. J. O’Neill How he does It xi. 142 Seeing the house lit up and the orchestra playing, worked up the curiosity of the people of the little town and ere long the ‘Rubber-necks’ of the place understood what was going on.
    1909 G. B. McCutcheon Truxton King iii. 41 They are the nobility—the swells. They don’t hang around the streets like tourists and rubbernecks.
    1941 J. Smiley Hash House Lingo 46 Rubber neck, tourist.
    1974 P. McCutchan Call for Simon Shard xiii. 119 Can you clear the place up, Inspector? Move the rubbernecks on, back to bed?
    2010 S. Quintero Efrain’s Secret 209 ‘What’s going on over there?’ Coach Moretti heads toward us intent on knocking heads. A few rubbernecks … follow him.
    The OED also lists the attributive compounds rubberneck auto, bus, car, motor-car, party, ride, tour(ist), wagon saying, “With the sense ‘of, relating to, or designating a sightseeing tour, tourist, or vehicle’.”
    rubberneck, v.
    [< rubberneck, n.]
    colloq. (orig. U.S.).
    1. intr. To crane the neck to see, esp. in curiosity; to stare, gawp; to be overly inquisitive; (also) to look around, to sightsee.
    1895 Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) 1 Aug. 1/6 Lizzie rubber necked in Charles’ business in some manner, and Charles came back at her.
    1903 C. D. Hagerty Jim Rickey’s Monologues 69 One night a fire broke out downtown and Ikey was on deck To congratulate the loser, also to rubberneck.
    1932 D. L. Sayers Have his Carcase iv. 59 She … could not waste time rubber-necking round Wilvercombe with Lord Peter.
    1977 Time 16 May 54/1 Wisconsin motorists may never see a purple cow, but they are rubbernecking at an enormous piebald blue one emblazoned on Farmer Hilbert Schneider’s 75-year-old barn at Johnson Creek.
    2001 L. Voss To be Someone 182 An octogenarian couple in an RV, who were rubbernecking at the trees above them.
    2. trans. To stare at.
    1897 Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Leader 2 Oct., You will find him in the rear, rubber-necking the stage.
    1920 F. G. Corning Student Reverie 85 The officers, between the acts, were privileged to stand up and face about to ‘rubber-neck’ the ladies with monocles and field glasses.
    1939 Daily Mail 12 Apr. 8/4 Thousands of people … have ‘rubber-necked’ this monstrosity [sc. Ming, the giant panda] until their eyes ached.
    1993 Fort Collins (Colorado) Triangle Rev. 18 Feb. 7/1 Small talk … is difficult when one keeps rubbernecking the skyscrapers like some hick from the sticks.
    The adjective rubber-necked also has an entry, which defines it as “Having a flexible or resilient neck; (also) having a tendency to stare or gawp.” The earlier quotations tend to match the first half of the definition either literally or figuratively; this one illustrates the latter:
    1928 D. H. Lawrence Lady Chatterley’s Lover x. 168 There was a toughness, a curious rubber-necked toughness and unlivingness about the middle and upper classes.
    where clearly rubbernecked means ‘resilient, flexible’.
    There is no reference in the OED to looky or lookie; I would have expected to find “Lookie-lookie!” under look. But there is a separate entry for nosy parker, dating it to 1890. The etymology is given as “Apparently nosy adj. + the surname Parker. Compare (especially earlier) allusive use as a proper name, apparently with reference to a (probably fictitious) individual taken as the type of someone inquisitive or prying (as perhaps also in quot. 1907)” That quotation, alas, is not very helpful by itself:
    1907 Picture Post Card (London View Co. Ltd.) (caption) The adventures of Nosey Parker.
    except to suggest that the postcard showed a cartoon character named Parker.

  8. Charles Perry says

    In California, I first heard the term in TV real-estate ads during the Eighties and assumed it was “lookie Lou.”

  9. Slight derail, but what the phrase immediately brings to my mind is the old Morris cartoon, Lucky Luke (and Kid Luke). The strip dates from 1946, if Comic Vine is to be believed, which raises the question, where would a Belgian have come across the expression? Old Zane Grey books? (Assuming, of course, that I’m right about the connection.)
    I’m pretty sure the connection exists only in your imagination (which is fine, imagination is an excellent thing!); “Lucky” is a common nickname going way back, same for “Luke,” and love of alliteration is even commoner and ancienter. Lucky Luke is no more in need of special explanation than Porky Pig.

  10. RHHDAS has

    Calif. a prospective buyer, esp. of real-estate, who has no serious intention of buying; (broadly) an annoying sightseer; nosy person.

    The earliest quotation is from the 1978 L.A. Times and it’s 1985 (Santa Barbara) for the broader sense. A 1994 N.Y. Times (presumably about OJ) still says, “as they are known in Los Angeles.”

  11. Indeed, googling for [“porky pig” “special explanation”], turns up nothing, and even [“porky pig” “explanation”] shows nothing helpful. As expected.

  12. I’ve never heard it, to my knowledge, but I’d understand it instantly, either for persons or for actions: to my ear, it’s a word waiting to happen 🙂 The resonance with “peek-a-boo” seals it, maybe?

  13. I doubt that the English would take this expression on board, since it sounds like leaky loo.
    The formal word for these people in German is Schaulustige, the colloquial expression is Gaffer. Gaffen means “gape”, and the word is “probably” (Duden) related to gähnen (yawn). There appears to be some etymological connection between “gape” and gähnen.
    By the way, Gaffer does not mean “peeping Tom”, not even by suggestion. The word for that is Spanner.

  14. I’m familiar with the term, but don’t use it. “Rubberneck/er/ing” is what I hear, see, and use most often.
    I’d swear, though, that I’d come across the phrase at least once in the UK.

  15. mollymooly says

    I heard this on an episode of “Two-and-a-half Men” (clip). I didn’t realise it was a real thing.

  16. I know the term, I don’t use it, I haven’t heard it in a while, but I always thought it referred to the act, I am surprised that for some people it could refer to a person.

  17. marie-lucie says

    where would a Belgian have come across the expression [Lucky Luke]
    Belgium may be small, but it is not totally isolated from the rest of the world. A Belgian wanting to start a comic strip about the Wild West (knowing how popular the topic is in Europe) would most probably have already seen many Western movies and read Wild West literature (whether in English or in translation) long before he thought of the strip. My father (who like JC knows a little bit about everything) said that the situations and events presented in Lucky Luke are based on real events, but they could also be based on events depicted in literature.
    Said in French, Lucky Luke (the name is never translated) is even more repetitious than the English original.

  18. Like Anne, I have heard this term used only to refer to the observer, not the act. I heard it in north Texas mostly by people born in the ’40s or so. I think even they, even then, used it tongue in cheek, aware that is was a rather silly expression (a sillygism, if you will).

  19. On the subject of bandes-dessines, Lucky Luke’s name is taken, I have always assumed, is based on a real character (“Lucky” Luciano, a mobster from the 1930s). I never would have thought that his creator, Morris (Lucky Luke’s creator, that is, not Lucky Luciano’s creator, who is equally silent on the subject of origins), got the name from the expression “looky-loo.”

  20. Belgium may be small, but it is not totally isolated from the rest of the world.
    True enough, but in 1946, it had been awhile since it had direct access to America.
    And your father is quite right, the comic is rife with historical figures.
    To supplement the author’s rife imagination….

  21. I heard this term often in Los Angeles during the riots after the Rodney King verdict. TV reporters pleaded, “Don’t be a looky loo” because it was dangerous & interfered with law enforcement/Nat’l Guard. During quieter times, traffic reporters would also call out the looky loos who slowed traffic by gawking at fender benders.

  22. I never heard the term until I moved to California in the 1980s, and for a long time I only heard it referring to people who went to open houses just to get a look at the place and criticize the decorating with no intention of buying. Admittedly that is more of a sport here than in some other places.

  23. Here’s Coleridge on looky-lookies and nosy parkers, though of course not by name, from Chapter 9 of Biographia Literaria (italics and paragraphing mine):

    The dark guesses of some zealous Quidnunc met with so congenial a soil in the grave alarm of a titled Dogberry of our neighbourhood, that a spy was actually sent down from the government pour surveillance of myself and friend [Wordsworth]. There must have been not only abundance, but variety of these “honourable men” at the disposal of Ministers: for this proved a very honest fellow. After three weeks’ truly Indian perseverance in tracking us, (for we were commonly together,) during all which time seldom were we out of doors, but he contrived to be within hearing,—(and all the while utterly unsuspected; how indeed could such a suspicion enter our fancies?)—he not only rejected Sir Dogberry’s request that he would try yet a little longer, but declared to him his belief, that both my friend and myself were as good subjects, for aught he could discover to the contrary, as any in His Majesty’s dominions.
    He had repeatedly hid himself, he said, for hours together behind a bank at the sea-side, (our favourite seat,) and overheard our conversation. At first he fancied, that we were aware of our danger; for he often heard me talk of one Spy Nozy, which he was inclined to interpret of himself, and of a remarkable feature belonging to him; but he was speedily convinced that it was the name of a man who had made a book and lived long ago. Our talk ran most upon books, and we were perpetually desiring each other to look at this, and to listen to that; but he could not catch a word about politics.
    Once he had joined me on the road; (this occurred, as I was returning home alone from my friend’s house, which was about three miles from my own cottage,) and, passing himself off as a traveller, he had entered into conversation with me, and talked of purpose in a democrat way in order to draw me out. The result, it appears, not only convinced him that I was no friend of jacobinism; but, (he added,) I had “plainly made it out to be such a silly as well as wicked thing, that he felt ashamed though he had only put it on.”
    I distinctly remembered the occurrence, and had mentioned it immediately on my return, repeating what the traveller with his Bardolph nose had said, with my own answer; and so little did I suspect the true object of my “tempter ere accuser,” that I expressed with no small pleasure my hope and belief, that the conversation had been of some service to the poor misled malcontent.
    This incident therefore prevented all doubt as to the truth of the report, which through a friendly medium came to me from the master of the village inn, who had been ordered to entertain the Government gentleman in his best manner, but above all to be silent concerning such a person being in his house. At length he received Sir Dogberry’s commands to accompany his guest at the final interview; and, after the absolving suffrage of the gentleman honoured with the confidence of Ministers, answered, as follows, to the following queries:
    D. “Well, landlord! and what do you know of the person in question?
    L. I see him often pass by with maister ——, my landlord, (that is, the owner of the house,) and sometimes with the new-comers at Holford; but I never said a word to him or he to me.
    D. But do you not know, that he has distributed papers and hand-bills of a seditious nature among the common people?
    L. No, your Honour! I never heard of such a thing.
    D. Have you not seen this Mr. Coleridge, or heard of, his haranguing and talking to knots and clusters of the inhabitants?—What are you grinning at, Sir?
    L. Beg your Honour’s pardon! but I was only thinking, how they’d have stared at him. If what I have heard be true, your Honour! they would not have understood a word he said. When our Vicar was here, Dr. L. the master of the great school and Canon of Windsor, there was a great dinner party at maister’s; and one of the farmers, that was there, told us that he and the Doctor talked real Hebrew Greek at each other for an hour together after dinner.
    D. Answer the question, Sir! does he ever harangue the people?
    L. I hope your Honour an’t angry with me. I can say no more than I know. I never saw him talking with any one, but my landlord, and our curate, and the strange gentleman.
    D. Has he not been seen wandering on the hills towards the Channel, and along the shore, with books and papers in his hand, taking charts and maps of the country?
    L. Why, as to that, your Honour! I own, I have heard; I am sure, I would not wish to say ill of any body; but it is certain, that I have heard—
    D. Speak out, man! don’t be afraid, you are doing your duty to your King and Government. What have you heard?
    L. Why, folks do say, your Honour! as how that he is a Poet, and that he is going to put Quantock and all about here in print; and as they be so much together, I suppose that the strange gentleman has some consarn in the business.”—So ended this formidable inquisition […]

  24. David Derbes says

    It’s probably nothing to do with it, but the phrase reminds me of an eighteenth century Edinburgh usage, “gardy-loo”, corrupted French for “Gardez l’eau”, which the folks in upper floors would shout before emptying chamber pots onto the streets below (and, one hopes, avoiding hapless passers-by.)

  25. marie-lucie says

    DD: “gardy-loo”, corrupted French for “Gardez l’eau”
    Gardez l’eau means ‘keep the water’, which is quite unsuitable in the context. The French phrase was probably Garde à l’eau, a shortening of Prenez garde à l’eau ‘Beware of the water’!

  26. Apparently the Scottish phrase went through an intermediate stage of Garde de l’eau on its way to gardy-loo.

  27. pollyesther says

    I grew up in Northern California in the 80s and 90s, and my mother (born in Southern California in the 50s) used “looky-loo” (never saw it spelled) exclusively as a person looking at a house with no intention to buy (something she herself did a lot, although she never referred to herself as one, thus leading me to believe that a looky-loo was to be held in low esteem). I have never heard it used as an act, only as a person, and only in relation to real estate–people on freeways slowing down for accidents are “rubberneckers” to me.

  28. gardy loo:
    I remember something similar from when I was young (in London, I don’t think it’s particularly Scottish), but I remember the explanation as being something like ‘garde à l’haut’ – urban medieval upper storeys sometimes cantilever out a little bit over the street, for some reason – actually I remember gardez l’haut as the explanation, but I’ll take m-l’s word for it that that’s all wrong. My grandmother used to say prenez garde, for example when we were crossing the street. I think she got it from a book character named Abby (well-known, I can’t remember more).
    On little Belgium and Lucky Luke, he was in English comics of the 50s & 60s. Germans of that era know him too. I had a German colleague in Hamburg who grew up in the 40s and who used to ask us to come over to his desk for a ‘looky-look’ at a drawing. I’ve also heard this phrase in Norway.

  29. I’ve never heard the expression in m’life: sounds infantile to me. What’s the world coming to, I’d like to know? Self-inbloodydulgence everywhere, can’t get a decent cup of tea, people drink fizzy lager instead of proper beer, ……
    Looky-effing-loo? I ask you!

  30. Jeffry House says

    In Mexico, people shout “aguas!” when they want to tell you to “watch out! “.
    Supposedly, this is because nasty waters used to be thrown from the upper floors after cleaning out the chamber pots.

  31. Jeffry House says

    In Mexico, people shout “aguas!” when they want to tell you to “watch out! “.
    Supposedly, this is because nasty waters used to be thrown from the upper floors after cleaning out the chamber pots.

  32. I seem to remember it from my East-coast upbringing (NY & Boston in the ’70’s & 80’s). I ran across it recently in print, in Quarter Share, by Nathan Lowell, 2010, pp 161-162, referring to shoppers looking without intending to buy, and in Dead Case in Deadwood, by Ann Charles & C.S. Kunkle, 2012, p. 256 referring specifically to looking at real estate without buying.

  33. For me also it’s always been “looky Lou,” like “peeping Tom” and “nosy Parker.” Whether I first read it or heard it I don’t know, but I’m so certain of the “Lou” part I’m inclined to think I read it at least once; I’m equally certain that I’ve never read “looky-loo.” I’ve lived all over the place, so can’t tie it to any regional usage.

  34. Oh, and in my experience it’s always been used of a bystanding gawker, not a peeper, not a rubbernecker (in a car), and certainly not of the act of looking.

  35. I’ve never before liked teabag tea, and I still despise it in most cases, but there’s nothing wrong with the Twinings Ceylon, Lapsang and Darjeeling teabags that they sell at our Turkish grocery in black cardboard boxes, dearie. I probably drink ten cups a day.

  36. Growing up in Detroit with Ontario relatives, I know it as the person, a rubbernecker/nosey parker/lookie-loo (sp?) I don’t use it frequently, but it is wonderfully funny way to mock the intrusive.

  37. marie-lucie says

    AJPS: garde à l’haut, gardez l’haut
    These can’t be right either. The word haut ‘high’ (from an early blend of Latin and Frankish) begins with “aspirate h” (originally the same as English or German “h”, and still used in some dialects) which prevents elision of the vowel in the article, therefore le haut not *l’haut. Besides, with the article, haut is a noun, and le haut means ‘the top, the upper area’, while the word for ‘upper floor’ (any floor above street level) is un étage.

  38. Where have I heard (or seen) ‘Look at all the looky-loos’? Looky-Lous would fit (and be ambi-sexterous).

  39. m-l, it’s all a bit hazy now, but I think these l’eau, le haut things may have been (as well as lieu) meant as etymologies for ‘loo’, the English word for… toilet – actually, is there no non-euphemistic word for this room apart from things like ‘crapper’? Bog. No doubt this question has been dealt with many, many times.

  40. Adalbert: yes, nothing wrong with that black tea from the Turkish grocers. It’s cheap and micturitional. I don’t buy the German brands any more.

  41. marie-lucie says

    AJP le Crayonneur: loo ~ l’eau
    At one time “water closets” came in use as places in which people could perform some of their natural functions in private. After “Waterloo” became famous in England (though infamous in France), “waterloo” became a euphemism for “water closet”, and “loo” was a short form of it (but old “loo” from l’eau may have played a role in its acceptance too).
    “Water closets” became popular in France under the name “les cabinets”, but the English word was rarely pronounced except under the initials “W.C.” (hence the common form ‘les vécés’) which you sometimes still see on the doors of “public conveniences”. When I was a child, we said “les cabinets” for the facilities associated with the home [inside or outside], but “les waters” [pronounced ‘ouatères’] for public ones.

  42. The road traffic reports on German public radio are wonderfully terse — and often feature the term “Gafferstau” (lit. gawper queue), e.g.
    A12 Nord zwischen X und Y gesperrt durch Unfall. In der andere Richtung: 2 Km Gafferstau.
    A12 North closed between X and Y following an accident. 2-km “gawper queue” in the opposite direction.

  43. Never knew that about Waterloo, m-l. I’m filing it all with the rest of your valuable info that I’ve got filed away. Pretty soon, we’re going to have to turn it all into a book.
    Stu, I’ll look up ‘micturitional’ and get back to you. I bought some very large cheap packets of strong black tea when my mother moved temporarily to an Indian & Pakistani neighborhood in London, but I didn’t like it. So I avoid that sort now and stick to Twinings.

  44. Are lookie loo, nosey Parker, and rubberneck all the same thing? They look like they have different shades of meaning to me.
    There are at least two meanings that seem at least partly separate.
    One is that of idle curiosity in looking on at other people’s affairs in public places. This seems to be the meaning of ‘looky loo’.
    The other is that of actively inserting oneself into other people’s affairs. This one might fit nosey Parker or busybody.
    Of course, the line between the two isn’t very clear, and perhaps terms like rubberneck or sticky beak refer to either idle curiosity as well as a deeper intrusion into people’s private affairs.
    I’m willing to be corrected on the above, but it seems to me that the degrees of nosiness are important.

  45. What does “micturition” mean? I thought it was a straightforward if almost forgotten synonym for “urination”, and I went to the OnlEtymD to learn a little more. What the hell? Does it really mean a desperate desire to pee?

  46. Not a desperate urge, just an urge. The distinction between micturition and urination may not easily be grasped by someone with a Puritan upbringing. Certain writers in this religious tradition considered an urge to do wrong to be just as reprehensible as actually doing it.

  47. Empty, you were right the first time: micturition does just mean ‘urination’, as m-w.com, RHD2, AHD5, and ODO all agree. The OED, being a historical dictionary, says “= urination n.1. Originally also: an intense desire to urinate; excessive frequency or volume of urination; an instance of this (now rare, perh. obs.)” Here are the quotations:
    1726 Philos. Trans. 1725 (Royal Soc.) 33 388 In the confluent kind, generally a Micturition and Dysury came on about the 12th, or 13th Day.
    1799 Med. & Physical Jrnl. 2 200 Frequent painful micturition.
    1820 J. Thomson tr. G. Cullen Nosologia Methodica (ed. 3) 256 Without swelling of the hypogastrium or micturition.
    1868 H. Thompson Dis. Prostate (ed. 3) 58 The barrier which the swollen prostate offers to micturition.
    1879 J. M. Duncan Clin. Lect. Dis. Women v. 64 Micturition very difficult.
    1922 J. Joyce Ulysses iii. 655 First Stephen, then Bloom, in penumbra urinated, their sides contiguous, their organs of micturition reciprocally rendered invisible.
    1959 Danish Med. Bull. 6 194/1 Cystometry, the measurement of intravesical pressure at various fillings of the bladder and during micturition, appears to have been effected exclusively by means of a catheter inserted through the urethra.
    1979 G. Bourne Pregnancy (rev. ed.) v. 95 Sometimes one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is an increase in the frequency of micturition.
    1989 J. A. B. Collier & J. M. Longmore Oxf. Handbk. Clin. Specialties (ed. 2) i. 70 During micturition there is relaxation of the striated muscle of urethra and pelvic floor.
    1995 Daily Tel. 21 Nov. 22/1 The prize for the most obscure medical syndrome of the week goes to Micturition Syncope, which cropped up during the interminable Maxwell trial as a possible explanation for the fate of the tycoon.
    It seems pretty clear that the first quotation uses the old sense and the next two are ambiguous, but from 1868 on micturition just means ‘urination’.
    Etymonline cannot be trusted as a dictionary of current usage, and indeed is not designed as one. The definition given there is marked “1725” and is the oldest, rather than the current, definition.

  48. micturition does just mean ‘urination’, as m-w.com, RHD2, AHD5, and ODO all agree
    They may all agree, but they’re right only as regards the vulgar failure to distinguish. To urologists micturition and urination are not the same thing. Consider the fact that many old folks experience a frequent urge to urinate, but nothing comes out, or very little by comparison with the urge. Even to describe these and other complex phenomena it is useful to have more than one concept and one word, see this for example:

    Normal Micturition

    For older persons in particular, continence requires mobility, manual dexterity, the cognitive ability to recognize and react to bladder filling, and the motivation to stay dry. Bladder smooth muscle (the detrusor) contracts via parasympathetic nerves from spinal cord levels S2 to S4. Urethral sphincter mechanisms include proximal urethral smooth muscle (which contracts with sympathetic stimulation from spinal levels T11 to L2), distal urethral striated muscle (which contracts via cholinergic somatic stimulation from cord levels S2
    to S4), and musculofascial urethral supports. In women, these supports form a two-layered “hammock” that supports and compresses the urethra when
    abdominal pressure increases. Micturition is coordinated by the central nervous system: Parietal lobes and thalamus receive and coordinate detrusor afferent stimuli; frontal lobes and basal ganglia provide signals to inhibit voiding; and the pontine micturition center integrates these inputs into socially appropriate voiding with coordinated urethral relaxation and detrusor contraction until the bladder is empty. Urine storage is
    under sympathetic control (inhibiting detrusor contraction and increasing sphincter tone), and voiding is parasympathetic (detrusor contractor and relaxation of sphincter tone).

  49. nothing wrong with that black tea from the Turkish grocers. It’s cheap and micturitional.
    Now I know the meaning I can’t see the advantage, Stu. But perhaps we’re getting into deep waters…
    2 Km Gafferstau
    Kevin, on US radio this is called a mile-and-a-quarter rubbernecking delay.

  50. They may all agree, but they’re right only as regards the vulgar failure to distinguish.
    In other words, they’re right only as regards the boring English language that actually exists; they take no account of the way you would prefer it to be. Note that it’s perfectly easy to say “need to urinate” (or “piss,” depending on circs), and that’s what people actually say. The language does not seem to have suffered for it.

  51. In other words, they’re right only as regards the boring English language that actually exists; they take no account of the way you would prefer it to be.
    What ? I have no preferences, and what’s boring me just now is not English but tetchiness. Are you claiming that what urologists actually say should be ignored when reporting actual usage of “micturition” and “urination” ?
    I did acknowledge that the dictionaries quoted may be right as far as common usage goes, before pointing out that it is ALSO TRUE that there is a technical distinction. I even explained why the distinction is not pedantic, at least to old folks like you and me.
    Perhaps you balked at the expression “vulgar failure to distinguish”. You do know a jokiness when you see one, right ? I was using “vulgar” in the outdated sense, to refer to those whom you call “people”.

  52. Grumbly, the trouble with what you are saying is that the OED quotes several technical medical sources, and they just aren’t making the distinction you propound any more — and by “any more” I mean “any time this last century and a half”. A quick look at Google Scholar articles that use both terms confirms this. Articles in journals of urology clearly use the terms interchangeably, and in fact define micturition as ‘urination’, as shown by the second hit on the first GS page. So while having two words was once functional, micturition is now simply a highfalutin synonym.

  53. In the prime of life, one takes a pee at will. In old age, one all too often leaves a pee willy-nilly.

  54. Don’t gang up on Grumbly, he was making a jokey-poo.

  55. they just aren’t making the distinction you propound any more
    Urologists may not, but mine do.
    In recent months I have watched several tv programs on the origins and development of the earth. It seems there are many scientists who believe that there is much more water on the earth than can be accounted for. All the constituents of the earth came from somewhere else. Either they came from meteorites and exploded stars, or are the results of chemical/thermic interaction between original constituents (and other prior results).
    With this in mind, have you ever wondered where amniotic fluid comes from ? In pursuit of the truth about Miktion, I found a startling explanation. I will leave it veiled in German, so as not to offend any untutored sensibilities:

    Der Fetus uriniert im stündlichen Abstand und erzeugt somit das Fruchtwasser, welches wiederum durch das fetale Schlucken recycelt wird.

  56. I meant “more water than can be accounted for by micturition”.

  57. “Fruchtwasser” sounds like something I’d find at Whole Foods. Maybe it should be “Furchtwasser.”

  58. I’m guessing that “micturition” is formed from that future whatsit participle micturus (of mingere), giving the sense of “on the point of”. I can see a Latin inscription above the entrance to a public toilet: “we who are about to pee must pay a penny” ?

  59. Trond Engen says

    If I remember correctly, the young Morris spent years in America working with animation and trying to get his comic published before going back home and having success there.

  60. Trond Engen says

    The Norwegian cognate mige is very colloquial. I would say vulgar, but it’s so rare that it’s more rustic.

  61. Trond Engen says

    Norsk forening for skuelystne (The Norwegian Association of Gawkers/Lucky Loos?).

  62. Grumbly’s linked German wiki article even includes an ultrasound video that is relevant to the quoted sentence. So does the corresponding English-language article. The two have much in common, but a quick comparison shows that one could miss out on some things by not reading both. For example, I doubt that any English word could match up to Stehpinkeln; and the German article seems to omit the factoid that Togo is a place where women urinate standing and men urinate squatting.
    Hat, I know that you normally encourage tangents and topic drift, but do tell us if you don’t want people soiling your site like this.

  63. No, no, it’s perfectly fine. Just spray a little disinfectant after you post. Or room deodorizer, as long as it’s not one of those sickly scents that are worse than what they’re trying to cover up.

  64. It’s spelled Roomdeodorizer, but it’s pronounced Nasalanaesthetic.

  65. I doubt that any English word could match up to Stehpinkeln
    Surely this is an unnecessary word?

  66. Oh, never mind. It’s stand rather than sit, not stand rather than walk.

  67. As a Sitzpinkler these many years, I think it’s an excellent set of words, and ripe for borrowing.

  68. You want to stand well away from Gehpinklers.

  69. Gehpinklers
    In the philosophical tradition they were known as Peeripatetics.

  70. Stu, I’d like to make a pun now about Priapatetics, but I feel that that’s really your job.
    Also, concerning the unborn Schwimmpinkler, there is some pun to be made on “prenatal” and “natation”, but I haven’t quite got it.

  71. I can’t help feeling someone’s taking the micturation.

  72. I saw an episode of “Person of Interest” today where the detectives were told that the suspect’s girlfriend worked at the “Looky-Loo” strip club.

  73. Trond Engen says

    I thought of Norwegian as lacking an established term for Gafferstau, but now I’ve heard glanekø twice in two days, from different people in different cities about different incidents.

  74. I remember being called a looky-loo by an older woman in New York when I was a teenager in the early 80s because I was snooping around the adult magazines in a bookstore. The woman was talking to another employee and said, “I think we have a looky-loo”, after which the other woman came over and asked whether I needed help finding anything. I have never heard the term used since.

  75. Well, that sort of experience will burn a word into your brain.

  76. Consolidating the subjects touched on here – gawking, whizzing, small creatures hiding behind bushes – we might arrive at the word “bouche-béebies”.
    Excellent word. This spring season in Germany I can’t help noticing the occasional youth in a public place trying to conceal an embarrassing sign of hormonic turmoil. Unfortunately, the fact that I do notice these things marks me as a member of the Prettypathetics.

  77. Regarding the comment, early on, by Anne on April 20, 2013 at 10:47 am: she comments that those who cautiously slow down when encountering the scene of an automobile collision (not an accident) are enhancing safety. I would propose this is only one of two types of persons engaged in this practice. The second is the looky-lous, the rubberneckers, who slow down well below safe driving speed because they want another ten seconds to view the carnage. And this overly-slow speed makes them a traffic hazard, much like the person who stops on a freeway ramp to let in an auto on the shoulder may cause a collision.

    I’m reminded of good advice by mom, at a restaurant when a tray of dishes was dropped: “You don’t need to look – you know what happened.”

  78. … an automobile collision (not an accident)…

    Is that a distinction in anyone else’s idiolect? Because the distinction doesn’t make any sense to me.

  79. There’s a tendency to call all automobile incidents accidents, even if one driver is clearly negligent. I doubt if this extends to intentional acts, though: if I run you over on purpose, it would be stretching things to call that an accident.

  80. @John Cowan: What you say sounds like it should be right; but to me, even when an automobile is crashed intentionally, that would qualify as a “car accident.”

  81. I might agree if you deliberately crash into a barrier or other inanimate object, but not with an animate object.

  82. David Marjanović says

    an embarrassing sign of hormonic turmoil

    Or of hibernation transitioning seamlessly into spring fatigue, as is so typical of (e.g.) teenagers.

  83. I might agree if you deliberately crash into a barrier or other inanimate object, but not with an animate object.
    I dunno, this is not a distinction I would make. And however you see this from the viewpoint of the person who crashed the car, it would still be an accident from the viewpoint of the animate object crashed into, wouldn’t it?

  84. In my ontology, inanimate objects don’t have a viewpoint. (My grandson thinks otherwise.)

  85. Ok, now I’m confused – which is the one you wouldn’t call an accident, the one with the animate object or the one with the inanimate object?

  86. Sorry, I misread it. If I run down a traffic cone (one of those red-orange rubber things) on purpose, I might call it a car accident. (My friend Beatrice swerved to miss the cone, not realizing it was rubber, and smashed into a concrete barrier instead, breaking three vertebrae. She survived, though she has been in pain ever since.) But if I run down a policeman on purpose, saying he died in a car accident would be, I contend, an abuse of language.

  87. Ok. What I’d say that it would be still ok to call it an accident from his point of view or in a report by a third party, but obfuscation if done by the driver who killed him.

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