November.30 NPR Books introduces Emily Dickingson’s poems on leftover envelopes under the title, “Emily Dickinson's Envelope Writings”

“Readers always seem to want to get closer to Emily Dickinson, the godmother of American poetry. Paging through her poems feels like burrowing nose-deep in her 19th century backyard — where "the grass divides as with a comb," as she writes in "A narrow Fellow in the Grass."

As I was interested in the phrase, “burrow nose deep in sth,” I checked both Cambridge and Oxford English dictionary to find whether it’s an idiom or not. Neither of them carries “burrow nose deep” as an idiom.

However, I found some of examples using “burrow (one’s) nose deep: “If Obama replaces her with an accursed DINO who will burrow his nose deep between Bankster cheeks, it will be because that's what he wants to do, not because it's what he has to do. - www.politicsplus.org/.../will-warren-or-a-dino-head-th...‎

“Where do I live if not in your woods? I burrow nose deep in dead leaves and silt soil by the river's edge. Your crows march wicked sentinel steps.”- gilliancornwall.blogspot.com

Does “burrow nose-deep” literally mean “dig in / bury deeply,” or have other figurative meanings like intimacy? To me “burrow nose-deep” in episodes of Emily Dickinson and Obama’s replacement of staff appear to be used in different meaning?

Is it an idiom or simple combination of “burrow” and "nose deep.”?

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    The Obama example is different: it should be parsed as [burrow his nose] [deep between Bankster cheeks]. It's a reference to ass-kissing. Your example here is about [burrowing] [nose-deep]. Also, ‘burrow’ is usually either intransitive or has the path being burrowed or the surface being burrowed into as its object; ‘burrow his nose’ is quite strange. I would guess it’s a typo, and that it ought to be ‘bury his nose’. Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 3:50
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet. I cut and pasted the line - If Obama replaces her with an accursed DINO who will burrow his nose deep between Bankster cheeks. It’s a strange typo, if it’s a typo, because we don’t usually mistype ‘burry’ as ‘burrow.’ Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 10:38
  • It's not that strange or uncommon to accidentally type a different, but similar, word to what one was intending. Happens all the time to me. Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 11:44
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    I am not so sure it is an error. The imagery surrounding the concept of burrowing is quite different than what is evoked by using "bury" in its place. It may be non-standard, but it is colorful and active. If you take it as a whole: burrowing animals, "Dino"-saurs, Bankster (gangster), kissing ass. It is a mixed-metaphorical tour de force...
    – horatio
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


I think it is an allusion to the behaviour of farmyard animals. In the first case it is probably cows, and in the third case probably pigs, with both meant with some affection. In the Obama case it is meant disparagingly, and refers to Dino "kissing the asses of bankers"


I believe these cases actually refer to the fact that one is lowering their eyes to ground-level, as if digging a hole that, if one were to stand in, would put one's nose at level with the hole's lip, thereby lowering one's eyes to just above the ground. A change in perspective is indicated. As stated by others, the Obama example does not relate to this meaning, but rather to the similar concept of "brown-nosing".

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