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pernickety

Printable Version Pronunciation: pêr-nik-i-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: [Slangy] 1. (US) Fussy or exacting about details, fastidious, finicky, punctilious. 2. (UK) Snobbish, supercilious, pretentious.

Notes: No, it isn't a typo; the original word was pernickety without the S. The S crept in later in the US, but is spreading to other dialects of English around the world. The noun referring to the quality of a pernickety person is pernicketiness, and the seldom used adverb is pernicketily. Feel free to include or omit the S.

In Play: If you are pernickety about your speech, you will probably want to use the S-less version of today's word: "Never help Gilda Lilly set the table. She is so pernickety about where every piece goes, she will drive you insane." If you prefer to talk like everyone else, you can cave in and include the S: "June McBride is so persnickety about her clothes, she changes them two or three times a day."

Word History: No one knows where today's Good Word comes from. It is clear that pernickety was first published in 1802 and preceded persnickety, which first appeared in print in 1892. This means that we are free to speculate on its origin until someone unearths real evidence. It may be a whimsical creation that caught our imaginations and stuck, like stick-to-itiveness. It might have originally been an accidental blend, a speech error in which we search for a word in memory, come up with two having the same or complementary meanings, and "blend" them together in speaking. That is the origin of smog, a blend of smoke and fog. Pernickety could have been a three-way blend of particular, niggling, and finicky. However, keep in mind that this is all blind speculation, for those who are not pernickety about their etymology. (We don't have to be pernickety to thank Dr. Goodword's friend Kathleen McCune of Norway, who suggested today's Good Word years ago, and Susan Ardith Lee, who reminded me of it later on.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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