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Related to Nellie: Nellie Bly
Someone who is more timid, nervous, or anxious than is normal or reasonable. My mother's always a bit of a nervous Nellie around the grandkids, so she doesn't like to look after them. I'm too much of a nervous Nellie to ever do something like sky diving.
sit next to Nellie
old-fashioned To work alongside a person with a lot of experience so as to learn how best to do a job by watching them work. It used to be the case that new recruits would just sit next to "Nellie" when they joined the team; now, with how quickly technology is advancing, it's often the new recruits who have to explain how things work to the older members of staff.
1. cliché Said to any person, thing, or animal (especially a horse) that one is trying to get under control or coax into slowing down. "Whoa, Nellie!" he shouted as the bucking bronco tossed him to and fro. A: "Whoa, Nellie! Just cool your jets, big guy!" B: "Get off of me! I didn't do anything wrong!"
2. An exclamation of surprise or astonishment, especially when something is more intense than one expected. Whoa, Nellie. Now that is one strong drink you fixed me! A: "Whoa, Nellie. I think I need to sit down for a minute!" B: "A bit of a tougher hike than you were expecting, huh?"
An exclamation of surprise. The phrase is generally thought to have originated as a command to slow down a horse (wherein "Nelly" is the horse's name). They're engaged already? Whoa, Nelly! Whoa, Nelly—what is going on in here?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Rur. Wait! Stop! Tom: When I get that money, I'm gonna get me my own place, and then you and I can get married, and—Jane: Whoa, Nellie! When did I say I was going to marry you? Whoa, Nellie! Did you measure them boards before you started cuttin' 'em?
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
An unduly timid or anxious person, as in He's a real nervous Nellie, calling the doctor about every little symptom. This term does not allude to a particular person named Nellie; rather, the name was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. [Colloquial; c. 1920]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
sit next to Nellielearn how to do a job or task by watching and copying someone experienced in it. informal
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
n. any nervous person, male or female. Sue is such a nervous Nellie. She should calm down.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
A person who worries unduly or is foolishly fearful. The term apparently originated in the late 1920s and referred to Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg, who served from 1925 to 1929. It soon was picked up and used for any individual, male or female, who showed such qualities. Richard Dyer used it in a review of Acis and Galatea, writing: “The direction presented him [Acis] as a kind of nervous Nellie, unable to decide which shirt to wear to impress Galatea” (Boston Globe, Nov. 23, 2004). See also worry wart.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer