Cultural Watch

namby-pamby – Word of the Day


Namby-pamby \NAM-bee-PAM-bee\ adjective


1. lacking in character, directness, or moral or emotional strength: namby-pamby writing.
2. without firm methods or policy; weak or indecisive: namby-pamby handling of juvenile offenders.


My reason for resigning was disgust with the namby-pamby character of the Magazine–a character which it was impossible to eradicate. I allude to the contemptible pictures, fashion-plates, music, and love-tales.
— , Edgar Allan Poe to F. W. Thomas, May 25, 1842, Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, by Arthur Hobson Quinn, 1941


Namby-pamby was first used by the English writer and musician Henry Carey as the title of a poem satirizing the work of his contemporary, Ambrose Philips, in 1726. The term is play on the name Ambrose.

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