Following my column about net curtains, Stephen P from North Yorkshire says the reason their popularity declined was down to the fact they are “hideous, especially those that are sort of tapered, don't fill the window in the middle and have a pattern”.

Don’t mince your words Stephen! Clare P from East Yorkshire says: “Like us, a lot of people have transferred from the fussy net curtain to the Venetian blind or plantation shutter. After a burglary many years ago, the police told us that our flimsy (but fashionable in the 80s!) bamboo blinds were completely see-through and an invitation to burglars to view our stuff and then come and nick it! Since then, we have always had blinds that we close once the lights go on. I like antique lace panels but would never have old fashioned nets now.”

North Yorkshire cyclist and blogger Rob Ainsley isn’t a fan of the trend towards large curtainless windows: “I cringe when I see those showpiece self-build houses on TV whose living rooms have vast uncurtained glass frontages. Once their lights go on in the evening, for passers-by it must be like watching an Alan Ayckbourn play.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Mr Nosey Parker was a term in common use from the late 19th century onwards. This postcard is from

Lynn C says in Canada where she lives they use the phrase "the nets were twitching" to refer to someone who is being too inquisitive. I have to confess to being a curtain-twitcher myself on occasion but I wouldn’t call myself a nosey parker, because I only do it when there’s something out of the ordinary happening, rather than to spy on my neighbours.

Talking of nosey parkers, where did that phrase come from? The word "nosey" makes sense, because you can be said to be sticking your nose in where it does not belong. But where does the "parker" bit come in?

I’ve done a fair amount of digging, and the same few explanations are often repeated. A favourite is that it was down to the first Archbishop of Canterbury appointed by Elizabeth I after she came to the throne. Matthew Parker, who was Archbishop from 1559 until his death in 1575, had a reputation, so the story goes, for poking around in other people’s business which earned him the nickname Nosey Parker. As fun a tale as that is, most sources accept it is highly unlikely, firstly because the word "nosey" (or "nosy") did not have the same connotation in the 16th Century as it does today but simply referred to someone with a large nose. The second reason is because Mr Parker did not have that reputation, as is backed up by my own research, and the third and most compelling reason is that there are no contemporaneous written references suggesting that nickname for him.

I found a number of "first written references according to the Oxford English Dictionary", all with different dates, which is very confusing. The earliest is from an edition of Belgravia Magazine founded by a very successful Victorian novelist, Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The magazine serialised fiction and in the May 1890 edition is the quote: “You’re asking too many questions for me, there’s too much of Mr Nosey Parker about you.” Clearly, this suggests the term was already well-known by the late Victorians.

The other "OED firsts" are all later, including a reference to a series of amusing picture postcards from 1907 onwards entitled "The Adventures of Mr Nosey Parker", a busy-body who keeps getting himself into scrapes.

I found yet another story in a February 1926 edition of the Westerham Herald concerning a 19th Century Army sergeant called Edward Parker. Apparently he had an unfortunate tumour that grew from the end of his nose and hung down beneath his chin. His soldiers would call him "Nosey Parker", a nickname that persisted until his death in 1888.

What is generally accepted is that the term was not in common usage until the latter part of the 19th Century, and initially it was used in the context of a proper name, "Mr Nosey Parker", and then later as a noun, "A nosey parker".

I don’t think I am going to get to the origin of this phrase, but what I do know for certain is that we all have a little bit of Mr Nosey Parker inside us.

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