Soon after being delightfully referred to as the "little Mark Rich creep" I happened to be doing some reading in a book by Daniel Lang. Lang, a writer for The New Yorker in the 1940s, shared a penchant with other New Yorker writers. Then and now, they have seemed eager to show off the latest in word-nuances and word-meanings, as found along the writing beat.
In writing about the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the Manhattan District, in 1945, Lang spoke repeatedly of "creeps" — who were, in fact, the Corps' counter-spies. On page fourteen of his book From Hiroshima to the Moon (New York: Dell/Laurel, 1961), for instance, this appears: "The creeps would put the spy under surveillance twenty-four hours of the day, make friends with him, even 'help' him with his mission." The C.I.C. head, Colonel William Budd Parsons, was "known as the creep."
Although writing and publishing in 1945, Lang was using a sense of the word not to be found in the 1947 American College Dictionary (New York: Harper Brothers, 1948 Text Edition). It did, of course, list the verb meaning of "to move slowly, imperceptibly, or stealthily."
In the Webster's Third New International Dictionary that has been my weighty companion since I entered Beloit College in 1976, the "creep" noun-definitions end with a pair of entries marked "slang." First: "a sneak thief that works in connivance with a cheap hotel or flophouse," or "a stealthy snooper." Second: "an unpleasant, unattractive, obnoxious, or insignificant person."
I find it fascinating that the counter-spy meaning went unnoticed by the would-be-all-inclusive Third New.
The word came up in reference to my having written the book C.M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary. I was not particularly stealthy, I am afraid, in pursuing my research. In the first issue of my fanzine Kornblume: Kornbluthiana, in August, 1994, I posed this to my readers: "The question arises: are there any holdings that include CMK correspondence?"
One would gather that no one among my readers knew the answer, since no one provided one. Most of the readers of that first issue were fellow professional writers who had known or might have known Kornbluth.
Much later — in early 2009 — I learned that David Ketterer's study of John Wyndham had led him to Syracuse University. I looked into it, found that many materials of special interest to me were archived there, effusively expressed my amazement and thanks to David, announced my visit to the university in advance, and did my research under bright lights in the company of other researchers in other subject-areas. The papers I used had been archived there expressly for the use of researchers.
Similarly, to track down the smaller number of papers that ended up at Northern Illinois University, I followed a lead provided by James Gunn.