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September 7, 2015

There’s an ad on the telly at the moment – it’s for, whatever that may be – which features the line “Some people can be very finickity”.

Finickity? I’ve heard this word before, but always thought it was a mistake: a cross between two legitimate words, finicky and pernickety, both of which mean the same thing, ie fussy, picky, hard-to-please. However, thinking about it again, I realise that the use of finickity is so widespread that it may by now qualify as a proper word. So I went to my OED to check it out – something I don’t do very often, because the bloody thing weighs a ton, and I’ve lost the magnifying glass that came with it and have to squint to read the tiny print. Anyway, this is what I found: finickity is not recorded. I also tried the alternative spelling of fernickity and that isn’t there either.

But this is what’s interesting: finicky is itself a variant of an earlier form, finical. So finickity is just one step further down the line. What’s more, pernickety is there (originally a Scottish word, apparently) but so is a variant, persnickety, first recorded in 1905. These slightly jocular words seem to encourage variations; and it would be finical and pernickety to protest. So I think that finickity, like finicky and persnickety before it, will eventually make its way into the OED.

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  1. emptyend permalink

    I just saw this ad and thought the same thing! Finicky (aka fiddly) is a long-established word. So is pernickety ( particular, pedantic etc). A new word adds nothing but further confusion over meanings and spellings.

  2. astilspeter permalink

    heh, “originally a Scottish work…” Slightly *jock*ular indeed.

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