I was reading O'hara's 10 North Frederick and in describing a house he mentions a dumb-waiter, a speaking tube and a "busybody." What exactly is a busybody?

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    google.co.uk/#q=define+busybody Look at the dictionary entries, if you still don't understand, please edit your question explaining "why".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:06
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    @Mari-LouA The only definition that pops up everywhere is along the lines of a person who is too interested in the private lives of other people, which seems strange to include in a list of properties of a house. Maybe this question is about the context, or maybe the OP would like to know if there is another, possibly more obscure or obsolete meaning of the word busybody that would fit more with the service-elevator and the communication system that are mentioned...
    – oerkelens
    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:53
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    @oerkelens please see deadrat's answer. I have only ever heard of a "busybody" as someone who doesn't mind their own business, the same one reported in dictionaries.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:57

3 Answers 3


From the printed supplement to the OED:

busybody.... a mirror attached to a building, reflecting a view of the street, etc. U.S.

enter image description here

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    Well, I never... kilianhardware.com/franbus.html
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:28
  • Does that device go by another name? Looking it up by "busybody" seems impossible Aug 10, 2015 at 9:24
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    @Saebekassebil aka Franklin busybody mirror.
    – Wad Cheber
    Aug 10, 2015 at 10:16
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    @Wad: a traffic mirror would be one positioned so that cars or pedestrians could see cars or pedestrians. I suspect most busybodys are positioned so you can see who's at your door, so secure mirror would be the correct alternate name. Aug 10, 2015 at 11:36
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    @PeterShor - that should have said "security mirror"
    – Wad Cheber
    Aug 10, 2015 at 21:40

The "Philadelphia Busy Body" was common on houses 100-200 years ago. The series of mirrors allowed the lady of the house to see a street vendor coming down the street and stop him with his cart. If she didn't see the street vendor he would pass by her house and continue on. She might not get her fruits and vegetables for that day



A meddling or prying person

SYNONYMS: [informal] snoop, snooper, looky-loo, nosy parker

Oxford Dictionaries

or a device for that purpose.

  • What is the GT for? Please quote things that you are quoting (by prefacing them with >) and properly reference where you got them from. Aug 10, 2015 at 13:40
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    -1. This is not the meaning that the author of O'hara's 10 North Frederick meant. You meant well, though. Aug 11, 2015 at 1:27
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    Technically the correct answer does fit the "or a device for that purpose" part of this answer.
    – Pharap
    Aug 11, 2015 at 3:01

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