Paparazzi and gossip columnists aren’t new. News sheets, pamphlets and satiric poems have been in existence for centuries, often stridently attacking the Establishment.
In late 17th-century France no high-profile figure was safe from the chatty but vicious observations of French gossip Gedeon Tallemant des Reaux. His targets included the King, the Cardinals, the aristocrats and the members of the military. His acerbic Historiettes were completed around 1659 but not published until well after his death. They contained references to a potentially disasterous foreign policy which King Henry IV was contemplating, but of which Tallemant disapproved. He commented that if the King followed his plan:
Se couper le nez pour faire depit a son visage.
He would be ‘cutting off his nose to spite his face’
The expression has since become a blanket term for (often unwise) self-destructive actions motivated purely by anger or desire for revenge. For example, if a man was angered by his wife, he might burn down their house to punish her; however, burning down her house would also mean burning down his, along with all of their possessions.