Defamatory expression for a devious domestic or other employee, also called an eye-waiter from the 1500s to the 1830s, who was too lazy to efficiently perform duties except when "within eyeshot" of his or her master - a form of insincerity known as "eye-service." One medieval explanation for this phenomenon was that servants were stricken with idle worms, tiny worms believed to grow and multiply on their fingers when they were not busy.

Forgotten English
copyright 1997 Jeffrey Kacirk

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