Let's Bring Back 'Quidnunc' and Make Our Curiosity Sound Inquisitive

Your know-it-all neighborhood quidnunc is the most likely person to know what a quidnunc actually is, but you don't need to go knocking on their door to figure out its definition. Quidnunc is a funny-sounding archaic word that should be right at home in the 21st century. So what does quidnunc mean — and how should you feel when someone labels you as one?

Quidnunc - lady eavesdropping on husband with mother Quidnunc - lady eavesdropping on husband with mother
Advertisement

​​Quidnunc: What's the News?

Is there someone in your life who always knows the best gossip or who's really worried about gossip getting past them? Quidnunc is a noun that comes from the Latin words quid ("what") and nunc ("now"). When you put them together, you get the question "What now?" or "What's the news?" Imagine someone hammering you with those questions until you finally tell them what's up. That's a quidnunc.

How to Be a 21st Century Quidnunc

Quidnunc sounds like the way you'd describe proper Victorian ladies in high-neck collars as they sip tea and whisper about the scandals of the day. But today, quidnuncs are more interested in spilling the tea about movie stars and YouTubers — and they tend to do it online in their sweatpants, not lacy dresses.

You may be a 21st-century quidnunc if you:

  • can't wait for the latest tabloid to disclose a celebrity affair

  • check your social media on the hour to make sure you haven't missed anything

  • look for humiliating errors or slip-ups on your ex's social media profile

  • think "I have to tell someone!" when your BFF texts you a sensitive secret

  • can name at least ten celebrity couple nicknames (extra points if you know the names of their babies)

  • have posted "Does anyone know what that noise was?" or "What's that helicopter doing?" on your neighborhood social media page

  • can summarize the storyline of at least two major reality shows

  • half-listen to the couple at the restaurant table next to you, hoping to hear something juicy

  • feel compelled to comment on public social media posts from people you've never met

Are you guilty of at least one of these “quidnunc-ish” behaviors? If so, don't be too hard on yourself. It's natural to feel curious about the lives of others — but maybe you can work on some healthy boundaries going forward.

I’m Bringing Quidnunc Back

Truth be told, quidnunc was never a popular word to use in conversation. It’s more of a literary term, appearing in works such as Nathanial Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (“What a treasure-trove to these venerable quidnuncs, could they have guessed the secret which Hepzibah and Clifford were carrying along with them!”) and as the title of an epic poem by Steven Woods. But it’s too good a word to remain in the library, so here are some ways we can bring it back:

  • Use it online to castigate those who unfairly dox people (“Don’t be such a quidnunc!”).

  • Drop it into your next conversation with your nosy siblings (“I can’t live my life with all you quidnuncs around.”).

  • Add it to your next text message about the ex who insists on knowing who you’re dating now (“Can you believe I ever went out with such a quidnunc?”).

  • Simply add “QN” to a gossipy comment on social media, and when others ask what it means, act like they’re out of the loop (“Don’t you even know what a quidnunc is? SMH”).

Other Words for Quidnunc (None of Them Are Nice)

If you're thinking "hey, that sounds just like _____," quidnunc may join the names you already have for that very special, very nosy person in your life. Some of those names may include:

  • busybody - someone who knows all about the affairs of others

  • gossip - a person who constantly spreads rumors

  • interloper - someone who interferes in other people's business

  • meddler - a person who must be involved in situations that don't involve them

  • buttinsky - slang for a person who constantly butts into others' lives

  • snoop - someone who spies on others and tells what they see

  • tattletale - a person who watches out for negative behavior from others and reports on it

  • rubberneck - someone who stops what they're doing to witness another person's unfortunate situation (without helping)

  • newsmonger - a person who is always spreading, and gathering, the news of the day

  • Nosey Nellie - a nickname for someone who constantly shares others' information

  • Nosey Parker - another nickname for a nosy person (which may or may not have originated from the same behavioral habits as a Peeping Tom)

  • sidewalk superintendent - a passer-by who offers unsolicited comments and advice to construction workers (similar to an armchair quarterback, but with construction instead of football)

Now you can accurately tell that quidnunc in your life to MYOB! Just don’t create too much drama when you do it — you know how those quidnuncs love their drama.

Advertisement

For the Love of Old, Weird Words

If you’ve always felt that you’d be more at home in a Jane Austen novel than a modern-day TikTok, there’s hope: You can bring many amazing out-of-practice words back to today’s lexicon! For more ways to speak like a true wordsmith, check out: