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26 comments on this post.
  1. osiris:

    My grandmother used the word “neb” as a verb. “Neb out”, she’d say sweetly. She grew up in Kentucky (probably a Pittsburgh connection somewhere) and moved to the Southwest in the ’30s, dragging many such verbal oddments with her.

    This site is excellent, by the way.

  2. terrymac:

    I was born and raised in the ‘Burgh — one of the few towns to use an “h” after “burg” – where “neb” and “redd up your room” and “gum bands” are common usage.

    One theory I’ve heard is that steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, a Scot, may have inspired some of our regional slang, whether directly or via the importation of other Scots.

  3. dan:

    Im from Northern England, Newcastle Upon Tyne and was laughing earlier today thinking of some words in our dialect: Geordie. Just so you know, we use nebby here and its interesting to find that it seems to have lived on in another part of the world in a state in the US.

  4. Joseph:

    Thanks for digging this out for us. A friend and I were just discussing these Pittsburgh terms and I too was initially drawn to “nebbish” thinking there was some antiquated meaning associated with the word. Very enlightening, indeed. BTW: It’s no wonder the residents of Ohio warned you to stay on the highway. In Pennsylvania, we consider their driving habits as extremely hazardous and dimwitted. So I suppose many of them get into accidents and thus word got back to the homeland that driving though western PA might be dangerous. It’s really the hills of course. Our roads are often narrow and winding and over the years we’ve developed a certain set of assumptions that flatlanders might not understand.

  5. Tom:

    Bologna is one of the most amazing places in Italy!

  6. tawnya:

    I am from Pittsburgh and now live in Ohio..i always use the word “nebby” and NO ONE in this state has ever heard that word! I thought I was losing my noodle! This morning I mentioned “corning” that we do on Halloween, to my man..again..another term Ohioans never heard?? Am I from Mars? I type in nebby and POOF! Its a Pittsburg word!lol we have our own lingo! But proud of it!

  7. Jeff:

    For additional info, here in Western PA some people will refer to the worst of the worst of nosy people as “neb-sh*ts”, singular is “neb-sh*t”. In case you can’t figure it out, you put an “i” in for the “*”.

  8. Laura:

    My family moved to Hartford City, Indiana. I soon heard the word “nibby” being used and had to ask for its definition. I was told that it meant “nosey”. I have lived in other communities in Indiana, Illinois and Kansas, and had never heard the word.

  9. Jack:

    Just had this mentioned on KDKA in pittsburgh, thats how I found it.

  10. Bev Lewis akaBeverly Wells Author:

    I,too,grew up hearing my mother(who was from RI) use the term neb-nose–meaning a busybody. I’m trying to find out the date it was first used as I’d like to use it in an upcoming novel of mine. If anyone can help me with the actual original date it was first used I’d be most appreciative. Thanks

  11. Karen:

    My Philadelphia grandmother used to call people nebby noses, but my Pittsburgh grandmother didn’t. However, the Philly grandma was married to a Liverpudlian – could she have picked it up from him, I wonder?

    @Bev Lewis, I’m probably too late for you on this, but here’s a website that lists early usages of it.

  12. Theresa:

    My father used the word Nebby to describe someone who was picky with their food. I grew up in the countryside in Co.Monaghan, Ireland.

  13. Elizabeth:

    I am from Central Indiana and grew up hearing my family use nibby. I just used it tonight with my kids (in TX) and found that my husband and none of my 4 kids had ever heard it.

  14. Pokey:

    I am in debate with my son about the origins of this word, and was raised in the Pacific NW of this country, and never heard “being a nib-nose” anywhere but here in Western PA. I used to notice it when I first moved here, and also the “you’uns” used to bug me, too.

  15. EBS:

    I was born in Sumter, S. C. in 1943. “Nebby nose” was commonly used in our town in that WWII era. It was not cool to be told that you were a “nebby nose”. I just remembered it for the first time in my adult life, last night. My wife grew up 50 miles west in an area rich in Swiss-German ancestry since colonial times, and she says that she never heard that term. I just called my sister who well remembers having been known as a “nubby nose”. What it meant in our culture seemed to largely apply to children who couldn’t resist looking in drawers, boxes, or closets when visiting someone else’s home (a particular form of sticking ones’ nose into another’s stuff or business).

  16. Pat:

    Southern NJ born and raised, lived here all my 51 years and I and many others I know use the word nibby. Absolutely no connection in my family to the Pittsburgh area, although we do have English/Scottish/Irish ancestry, but that goes back to the early 1700s. Interesting word, thanks for the info on it!

  17. Mary:

    I grew up in southern New Jersey (Cumberland County) and nibby was commonly used there.

  18. Laura:

    The word also shows up in the writing of Ann Cleeves in the Vera mysteries.

  19. Mary:

    The nuns used the term “Nebby” with us children in the 50’s. This was in California, but the nuns were from Pittsburgh.

  20. Stacey:

    I’m from north central West Virginia (probably 2-2.5 hrs south of Pittsburgh), and grew up saying “nibby”. My grandmother and mother referred to nibby folks as being a “nib s**”. :) I was called this more than once growing up! My Philly born husband found the word quite amusing – It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage I realized this wasn’t a commonly used term.

  21. Kevin:

    Ha, glad to see someone else from South Jersey. I am from South Jersey, Salem. The phrases to nib, nibby, nibby nose , nibsh*t and various versions have the meaning that a person is always into someone else’s business.

  22. John:

    Native of Pittsburgh and of mostly Scottish descent. A reading of the history of the early settlement of Western Pennsylvania shows that the majority of the first settlers were Scottish, Presbyterian as well. (Most of the colleges and universities in Western PA were established by this group in order to provide training for clergy). So there is much early Scottish influence here including the spelling of Pittsburgh (which would have been pronounced Pitts-Boro as in Edinburgh capital of Scotland or Edinboro University). Undoubtedly, later German immigration influenced the pronunciation to Burg (and for a time, the actual spelling to match the pronunciation).

  23. Mark:

    People dont realize, western PA was built by Celtic people, both Scott and Irish. Later, they were squeezed out of the area, and just followed the mountain range south.

  24. Linda Wilson:

    Nib nose and nubby are very commonly used in WV/the mid-Ohio Valley as well. (About 2 hrs south of Pittsburgh.)

  25. Richard Miller:

    I first heard this term from a friend who was born in western Pennsylvania, so no surprise there. I was born in the eastern part of the state and never heard it before – no surprise there either. As for living in Pennsylvania, as James Carville once said, “well, between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you’ve basically got Alabama.” I think he was talking about the vote, but the analogy works for a lot of things, I’m finding out.

  26. Mark Cousins:

    I’m from Newcastle in Northern England and neb is used for nose. Hence nebby is someone who is nosey.

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