[Ads-l] unpick?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 30 15:59:31 EDT 2018

Interesting.  “Unpick” has a long history, I suspect most of it spent in the U.K., with the meaning of ‘pick apart’, either literally or figuratively.  Here’s the OED:

a. To undo the sewing, weaving, etc., of (a garment or other stitched or woven item); to take out (a stitch or thread). Also in figurative context. Also intr.

With cites from 
1775   J. Ash New Dict. Eng. Lang.   Unpick, to undo the seams or stitching of any thing.
1985   G. Greene Tenth Man xi. 23/1 in Mail on Sunday 3 Mar.   His lawyer's mind began to unpick the threads of the case.

and more recently

b. fig. To undo or take apart (esp. something complex or intricate); to carefully analyse the different elements of (something complex or intricate), esp. in order to find faults.
With cites from 
1948   Times 21 Apr. 2/2   It might not be possible to unpick everything the Socialists had done, and they would have to consider very carefully what must be unpicked, what must be rearranged, and what they could do.To
1984   Guardian Weekly (Nexis) 8 July 5   The whole, painfully-constructed deal will almost certainly have to be unpicked, or at least renegotiated.
2013   J. Bannister Deadly Virtues xxxi. 290   In order to unpick your story you have to give him a story to unpick.

(Not clear to me why the Greene quote wouldn’t have fit into b as easily as a, or whether a and b are really all that distinct)

In the cannabis case, it’s more the sorting out and analysis of something complex than it is the finding fault, but it’s not surprising to me that the story is from London and not New York or Houston.  


> On Aug 30, 2018, at 3:38 PM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM> wrote:
> https://isp.netscape.com/tech/story/0002/20180830/KCN1LE1W9_3
> Scientists unpick how cannabis component may fight psychosis
> - Jim Landau
> _____________________________________________________________
> Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list