Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Nov 5 17:46:34 UTC 1999

Parasitic gnats fly in and out of empty spaces in sentences.

dInIs (sorry)

>Scott Catledge <scplc at GS.VERIO.NET> wrote:
>"Ticky" and "nitpicky" were synonyms in 1940's in north Florida.  I did not
>know what a nit was until 1948 when I read John Brown's explanation of why
>he murdered all the children of slave-owners that he could, "Nits make
>Hmm, I've heard (or more likely read) the saying as "nits will be lice".
>Specifically, a nits is "the egg or young of a parasitic insect, such as a
>louse" (_Am.Herit.Dict._). So nit-picking is: going through someone's hair (or
>fur), often literally with a fine-tooth comb, and picking out the nits to
>prevent a new generation of lice. (As far as I know.)
>I've never heard of parasitic gnats; maybe the word was used more loosely, or
>(more likely, IMHO) alliteration trumped entomology.
>-- Mark

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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