What's in a Word | All Blogs

Nary a bead

By Debra Dobbins

The clue yesterday for “niggling” was “petty.” That makes sense; both are adjectives.

The verb form is “niggle.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it came into English in the 1590s, very likely stemming from a Norwegian dialectal word, nigle, which meant “be busy with trifles.”

Webster’s defines ”niggle” as “to work fussily; pay too much attention to petty details; be finicky.”

I can relate. Recently I’ve taken on more proofreading duties at the Sentinel. I suspect folks around here are already murmuring that I can niggle, aka nit-pick, with the best – or maybe worst – of ‘em.

It’s a plum job, really. Someone else has to do the hard work of actually writing up copy under deadline pressure. Then the copy is handed to me, and I get to fussily delete a comma here, add one there, pounce upon a typo or two and hand the copy back. I don’t even have to make the revisions.

I’d like to claim I sweat the small stuff, but nit-picking comes so naturally I pop nary a bead.

Nope, niggling isn’t a tough job, and I’m glad I’m the “someone” who gets to do it.


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