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STICKLER

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STICKLER

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:34 pm

• stickler •


Pronunciation: stik-lêr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Official regulator of a competition, umpire, referee. 2. Someone who is fussy about details, correctness, following the rules, going by the book and expecting others to do so, too.

Notes: Here is a word that has come a long way but has strayed off course time and again. Only recently it changed as a result of being confused with the various meanings of stick (see Word History). The verb (to) stickle is still available with the meanings (1) to referee, judge, or umpire; (2) to strive diligently for; and, more recently, (3) to haggle, make difficulties, raise objections.

In Play: I tend to rue the loss of a Good Word or even one of its meanings. I would love to hear wordplay like this: "I always liked those tennis matches when John McEnroe got a stickler of a stickler refereeing the game." However, I am also not one to cry over spilt milk, so let's enjoy the new meaning: "Morris Bedda is a stickler about everyone paying their own check when dining out."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an agent (doer) noun derived from the verb (to) stickle. This verb began its English life somewhere in the 9th century as stight "to order, arrange". By the 14th century it had become stightle "to order, control, govern". In the 16th century it was pronounced as it is today, stickle, and referred to a referee, umpire or other official regulator of a competition. From there it was only a hop and a skip to someone who plays strictly by the book and expects others to do so, too. The confusion with the verb (to) stick, in the sense of "stick to the rules", was all it took to push it into that meaning. (We are sticklers when it comes to thanking readers like Joy Aloisi for suggesting very Good Words like today's. So, thank you, Joy, for this one.)
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Re: STICKLER

Postby MTC » Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:51 am

Thanks for shining a light on this curious word. At the risk of being labeled a stickler myself, the various online dictionaries define stickler somewhat different. For instance,
The American Heritage Dictionary defines stickler as follows:

stick·ler (stklr)
n.
1. One who insists on something unyieldingly: a stickler for neatness.
2. Something puzzling or difficult

I have only seen and used stickler in the first sense. The second sense came as a revelation. It is easy to remember though because stickle rhymes with pickle as "in a pickle." About the etymology, without Dr. G's explanation I would have guessed it had something to do with stick, like a stick marking a boundary, or perhaps "a sticky wicket."
Intuitions are sometimes off, however.
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Re: STICKLER

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:57 am

I've only used it in the first sense of your definition too.
Its other uses are new to me.
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Re: STICKLER

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:08 pm

It was the Good Doctor's first definition that I did not know. He goes back to the border between Old English and Middle English for the roots of this Good Word and to its first definition as a referee or an umpire. Who'd uv thunk it?

As much as I like stickler, I like the verb stickle even better. The GD’s verb definition 3 is the one I am best at. I am striving toward using the GD’s verb definition 2 although it is less used that way.

Has everyone discovered Wordnik? You probably have because I am always a day late and a dollar short. Enter http://www.wordnik.com/words/zzzz where zzzz is the word you want, and you get a thorough treatment of the word. There are some local British definitions of stickle there I find interesting.
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Re: STICKLER

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:47 pm

I get it daily.
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