The phrase “the great unwashed” was coined by Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873). I’m not sure what he had in mind with that phrase, but it seems to fit most keepers’ feelings about the general public fairly well. Particularly on free days!
This is not to say that keepers hate all zoo visitors, but if you’ve ever worked in a public setting you probably understand that there are always those special few who, intentionally or not, make things difficult. And it’s especially vexing in a zoo setting where it’s usually the animals that take the brunt of the abuse.
One of the great frustrations of working as a zookeeper is that you often don’t have time to stop and chat with the nice, polite families passing by but still have to go out and deal with the jerks.
Bulwer-Lytton is probably best known for the infamous opening to his novel Paul Clifford (1830) which begins, “It was a dark and stormy night….”
He is also credited with first using the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword.”