Victoria Neufeldt vneufeldt at M-W.COM
Fri Feb 25 19:58:35 UTC 2000

I don't think 'picky' can have come from 'picayune'.  'Picky' dates from
early in this century, and its basic meaning was/is choosy or finicky (as in
"a picky eater").  It's directly related to 'pick', as in 'pick and choose'
or 'pick at'.  There's a significant semantic difference between calling
someone picky, meaning they're too fussy, and calling them (or more likely a
notion the person has expressed) picayune, meaning trivial or even
small-minded.  Also, 'pickaninny' does not seem to be related to 'picayune'
(which goes back to a word meaning money); 'pickaninny' most likely derives
ultimately from a Portuguese adjective meaning small.


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> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Stephanie Hysmith
> Sent: Friday, February 25, 2000 2:05 PM
> Subject: Re: picayune
> Beverly wrote:
> >I too have known the word all my life--from very non-francophone
> Minnesota
> >(though not too far from Canada, of course; we also had 'shivaree').
> I've known it all my life as well, growing up in Northern Virginia, with a
> father who was from Oklahoma. I learned shivaree from the
> musical, "Oklahoma."
>   Since >Bethany, Vicki, Ron, Rudy, and I are all in roughly the same age
> category >(I don't know about Sean), it may indeed be that the word is
> passing out of>use;
> I think it's an age thing too. I use it on occasion--it's a great
> word--but
> don't recall hearing it too much around SE Ohio.
> >Just a guess:  Might 'picky' as an adj. meaning fussy or
> >looking-for-something-to-criticize have come from 'picayune'
> (anglicized by
> >people who wouldn't have known the spelling)?
> This is exactly what I thought, too, that it's a clipped form,
> sort of like
> perks for perquisites.
> Stephanie

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