Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Episode 107: Bury Your Nose in a Book Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 107: Bury Your Nose in a Book

Record Date: April 12, 2021

Air Date: April 14, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from it’s entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

I was out on the front porch the other day and a neighbor walked by and hollered at me… “I see you’ve got your nose buried in a book again. Is it a good one?” 


To bury one’s nose in a book refers to a person who seems to be constantly reading or is frequently very engrossed in books. 

Merriam-Webster’s definition of have one's nose in is: 

to be reading (a book, magazine, newspaper, etc.) It seems like she always has her nose in a book whenever I see her.

However, to “bury one’s nose in” something is not limited merely to books. 

Oxford English Dictionary gives us this definition for the broader use. 

to bury one's nose in: to become intently occupied with, spec. to read studiously or intently; so to have one's nose in: to be engrossed with (esp. a book).

But which way did it begin? We’re gonna find out!

1648 Regall Apology

They go nosing and smelling after faults. 

The word Bury… 

a1616   W. Shakespeare Tempest (1623) v. i. 55   I'le breake my staffe, Bury it certaine fadomes in the earth. 

1652 Richard Brome · A joviall crew; or, The merry beggars

The foul Fiend took him napping with his nose Betwixt the sheet-leaves of his conjuring Book.

Gross-factor warning: (dead bodies, but nothing specific)

1789 The Annual Register, Or a View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year

1837 Charles John Huffam Dickens · The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club

Mr. Weller looked very profound as he delivered this legal opinion; and burying his nose in his tumbler, winked over the top thereof.]

1840 Charles Huffam Dickens · The old curiosity shop

At this reply Mr. Witherden buried his nose in the flowers again.

1845 Nathaniel Parker Willis · Dashes at life with a free pencil

He buried his nose deeper between the leaves [of the book], and sat down on the low counter, forgetful alike of his dilemma and his lost friend.

From the April 25, 1848 of The Northern Tribune out of Bath, Maine there is a story about a rather interesting horse. The animal apparently was born with only about 6 inches of legs from each of his knee joints down. 

There are some terms in here that might otherwise sound very offensive. 

1850 Charles Kingsley · Alton Locke, tailor and poet

He..filled his pipe, and buried his nose in ‘Harrington's Oceana’.

When Men Grew Tall Or the Story of Andrew Jackson By Alfred Henry Lewis · 1907

And we have some modern examples  for you, but first, we have a few people to thank!

A Quick Thank You


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Modern Uses

1991 Beauty and the Beast - Disney Movie 

Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar

I wonder if she's feeling well

With a dreamy, far-off look

And her nose stuck in a book

What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

Wrap up...

I love that this phrase has a little blip that showed up nearly 200 years earlier than the rest of the usage, especially since it uses the word betwixt. This is a concept that I assume has existed since the existence of the written word and I love it! Other things I love include pretty much everything to do with books - I love book stores, libraries, book-printing processes, book-binding… naturally, I love reading and collecting books… I even love the smell of books. Perhaps only fellow bibliophiles will side with me on this, but it is a rather lovely thought - to perpetually have one’s nose buried in a book. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. Don’t forget to check us out @bunnytrailspod on social media… or find everything we do at 


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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

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