It so happens that my partner and I move house about once or twice a year (we also move to another city every 3 years, give or take, and occasionally we even go to a different country, but so far that has happened just once). Today we went to have a look at a flat, and although I was initially quite sceptical I actually liked it a lot and, fingers crossed, we’ll be moving there in a couple of months. The current tenants were showing us around and when describing their landlord they used the word ‘pernickety‘, suggesting that he could be quite fussy about bikes left in inappropriate places or shoes left outside the flat.
I was surprised to find out that the word was quite informal, but the meaning was quite clear from the context – ‘worried or complaining about details that do not matter’ (MacMillan Dictionary).
Here are some examples of my newly-discovered word:
– Bullet for My Valentine are the biggest British metal band since Iron Maiden. That’s a statement that (still) rankles the more pernickety metal fan, who continues to claim that, because BFMV focus on huge tunes (and have a penchant for syrupy ballads) rather than huge lyrics, and have meticulously straightened hair that’s more salon than sweatbox, they lack credibility (BBC).
– The archivists will keep the room at a temperature between 16C and 19C, and aim for a certain level of humidity, figures which meet a British regulation established by archivists, for archivists. It might sound pernickety but when you are in charge of documents including the cathedral’s foundation charter you do your best to get it right (BBC).
– If some creatures can tolerate lower pHs and others cannot, you might expect things to average out: the tolerant and adaptable prosper, the more pernickety perish (The Economist).
– It’s all about the club sandwich. That’s how you recognise a decent hotel, according to Tyler Brûlé, writing in the Financial Times at the weekend. Mr Brûlé wisely dismisses the pernickety details that govern so many star-rating programmes and says that the quality of the club sandwich (apparently invented in New York in the 19th century) is the simplest way to asses the standards of a hotel (The Economist).
P.S. I’ve also found quite a funny-sounding synonym for this word – finicky.