[or Noakes (1 syl.)]. A simpleton.
“John-a-Nokes was driving a cart toward Croydon, and by the way
fell asleepe therein. Meane time a good fellow came by and stole away
his two horses. [John] awakening and missing them, said, `Either I am
John-a-Nokes or I am not John-a-Nokes. If I am
John-a-Nokes, then I have lost two horses; and if I am not
John-a-Nokes, then I have found a cart.” —
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894