Now that's a coy headline

The Guardian has an article about a village in Britain that ganged up and chased off a car that was taking pictures for Google Street View, the Google Maps feature that lets you look at neighborhoods in detail. Some people think it's creepy; the concern at this particular village seemed to be that having the pictures on the Web would encourage burglary when people could see how fabulous their homes were. But I'm writing about this because I liked the headline: "Coy village tells Google Street View 'spy' to beat a retreat."

I usually think of coy as "affectedly and usually flirtatiously shy or modest" (American Heritage second definition) and as "marked by cute, coquettish, or artful playfulness" (Merriam-Webster Online definition 1b). But it's the first definitions that the headline writer was using here:

  • Shrinking from contact or familiarity (Merriam-Webster).
  • Tending to avoid people and social situations; reserved (American Heritage).

In that sense, it's the perfect word for the villagers' attitude.

Coy is a Middle English word meaning quiet or shy, from the Anglo-French quoi, quei, koi meaning quiet, from Latin quietus meaning at rest, still, quiet, according to Merriam-Webster and the OED.