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I was speaking with a friend today who is a policeman. I asked him how his week had been and he replied "I don't have any good stories for you this week". I wanted to say: "I'm not being _________", meaning "I'm not asking in order to draw out of you / pry about / solicit information concerning sordid or shocking happenings," but I was unable to bring the correct word to mind. I have spent time mulling it over and I cannot put my finger on the right adjective.

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  • What I am looking for is a word that specifically means "digging into / probing for information which I know I am not really supposed to be party to". Aug 28, 2021 at 3:46
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    What's wrong with the idiom I don't mean to pry or I didn't mean to pry [but now I'm gonna pry anyway]? Aug 28, 2021 at 4:44
  • A fair question. However, I am specifically interested in knowing what the correct adjective would have been. As mentioned below, it is akin to 'prurient', but without any sexual connotation. (Incidentally, I wasn't going to pry anyway - I genuinely dislike hearing stories involving any kind of suffering, cruelty, or injustice, etc.) Aug 28, 2021 at 4:53
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    The word nosy seems to fit the bill?
    – 0x263A
    Aug 28, 2021 at 5:01
  • Not in this instance, I'm afraid. My friend would have willingly told me some stories if he had had any! The impression I was keen to avoid was that I would use my personal friendship to solicit information regarding the kind of horrible and even gory events that he may have encountered. Aug 28, 2021 at 5:08

6 Answers 6

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Prurient

OED:

A. adj.

1. Exhibiting or characterized by excessive or inappropriate desire or interest; overly curious.Frequently with overtones of sense A. 2.

1994 Newsday (Nexis) 21 Aug. 38 The documentary triggers in the reader a mixed feeling of disgust for and prurient fascination with the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

2. Lascivious, lewd; exhibiting or characterized by an excessive or inappropriate concern with sexual matters; encouraging such a concern.

2006 Daily Tel. (Nexis) 22 Apr. 12 At the risk of appearing prurient, I had to inquire: how erotic was it?

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inquisitive

Inclined to ask questions
especially : inordinately or improperly curious about the affairs of others m-w

Often (now usually) in an unfavourable sense: Unduly or impertinently curious; prying. OED

An inquisitive person likes finding out about things, especially secret things. Collins

The problem, I think, is that adjectives that describe the stories not of interest don't describe the person asking. If I'm not after funny or juicy stories, I can't say I'm not trying to be funny/juicy. I would say I'm not looking for the funny/juicy.

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  • 'Inquisitive' is very close according to these definitions. However, it still lacks the bite I am looking for. The adjective in view would be more akin to 'prurient' ("too interested in the details of another person's sexual behaviour", according to the Cambridge Dictionary) - yet would be devoid of any sexual connotation. It would be something along the lines of "Too interested in getting you divulge sordid information". Aug 28, 2021 at 4:01
  • I think it meets the draw information out part and implies the type of information as well. Let's see what others come up with.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 28, 2021 at 4:11
  • The adjective sought would invoke a degree of revulsion, implying impropriety. Aug 28, 2021 at 4:12
  • (The title of the question only gives part of the meaning, which is actually more specific.) In the context, 'impertinence' is not an issue, as I know the person well; I had no doubt he would have happily related some of his stories. Aug 28, 2021 at 4:26
  • It has just struck me that "over inquisitive" would be even closer to what I am looking for - so your suggestion has been stimulating and thought-provoking. However, even this still lacks that element of a distasteful, almost lurid desire to solicit specifically sordid information. Aug 28, 2021 at 10:52
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You could say,

I am not being a crime/horror freak.

Collins:

If you describe someone as a particular kind of freak, you are emphasizing that they are very enthusiastic about a thing or activity, and often seem to think about nothing else.

Freak is not always pejorative or judgmental, but it does carry the idea of excess and obsessiveness as in:

a control freak - a person who is obsessed with something (here control) M-W

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  • An interesting suggestion. As a native speaker of British English, it sounds very American to me, although I certainly see where you are coming from. I am particularly keen to find a single adjective, nonetheless (assuming there is one). Aug 28, 2021 at 10:44
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The word that came to mind for me was voyeuristic, as in:

I'm not being voyeuristic.

Oxford:

gaining pleasure from watching the problems and private lives of others

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  • A voyeur is typically a passive observer, whereas the question seems to be about a more active, intrusive activity. Aug 28, 2021 at 11:53
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In the comments you added: What I am looking for is a word that specifically means “digging into / probing for information which I know I am not really supposed to be party to.”

So I will propose the adjective meddling — or meddlesome — (intrusive in a meddling or offensive manner) from the verb meddle:

: to interest oneself in what is not one’s concern : interfere without right or propriety (see PROPRIETY sense 1)
// I never meddle in other people’s private affairs — G. B. Shaw
Source: Merriam-Webstermeddle

So:

I don’t mean to be meddling.

Meddling can be understood as either a verb or an adjective in that construction. If the word needs to clearly be an adjective, try meddlesome:

I don’t mean to be meddlesome.

Following the cue at propriety, you could also try improper:

: not proper: such as
a : not in accord with propriety, modesty, good manners, or good taste
// improper language
Source: Merriam-Websterimproper

So:

I don’t mean to be improper.

 

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gratuitous, adj

In the OP's context, this adjective indicates that you aren't trying to pry for unwarranted information.

You could say something like this: "I'm not being gratuitous, trying to get you to dish about the lurid details of your week. No, I'm simply concerned about you and want to make sure you are doing okay."

2a. Done, made, adopted, or assumed without any good ground or reason; not required or warranted by the circumstances of the case; uncalled-for; unjustifiable. [OED]

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