[Ads-l] flyspeck, v.

Wed Oct 5 10:31:11 EDT 2016

I know this as a legal or financial term meaning a line-by-line examination of a document such as a prospectus, and that's probably the immediate source of the MSNBC quotation.  The Free Dictionary says:

<<A slang expression for reviewing every word, every comma that might make a difference between dependent and independent clauses, every pronoun and its antecedents (does “he” refer to the grantor or the grantee in a sentence, for example),and sketching every property description in every deed in a chain of title to make sure the same land is always described and the description makes an enclosed parcel.  Comes from the expression “picking the flyspecks out of the pepper,” which is an exceptionally tedious job.

The Complete Real Estate Encyclopedia by Denise L. Evans, JD & O. William Evans, JD. Copyright © 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.>>

I can't say I'm familiar with the expression "picking the flyspecks out of the pepper," but this derivation sounds plausible to me.  I can trace the term back to 1943:

"Of course I agree that upper courts should not, by demanding perfection and by flyspecking scrutiny of trial records, obstruct ‘the criminal prosecution of complicated crimes‘ unavoidably involving large number of defendants."  United States v. Liss, 137 F.2d 995, 1004 (2d Cir. 1943) (Frank, J., dissenting) (footnote omitted).

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 6:10 AM
Subject: flyspeck, v.


Democrats will "be flyspecking what Mike Pence said."

'To examine critically and in detail.'

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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

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