Monday, January 12, 2009


Professor Kyle Wilkison (Collin College, Plano, TX) wrote: “I have a talented but obstinate student who denies the validity, indeed the existence, of the wonderful word "sticktoitiveness." I am delighted to encounter a student who cares about words but equally committed to disproving her argument. Please advise.”

Let's hear it for inquiring students. They make teaching a joy.

Here we have another case of "that depends on what word means." The word stick-to-it-iveness does appear in dictionaries, but it usually bears the label colloquialism. As we both know, colloquialisms are words, but you wouldn't want to use them in formal dissertations.

Your 2 x 4 weapon of choice in this instance is the Oxford English Dictionary, the intellectual cudgel that few wish to challenge. Here is the relevant part of the entry and some examples:

Stick-to-it-iveness: colloq. (orig. U.S.), dogged perseverance.

1867 in E. B. Custer Tenting on Plains (1889) xvi. 520 With the stick-to-it-iveness of a fox-hound when once on a trail. 1908 Daily Express 15 May 1/4 mostly hard work. It's work and it's stick-to-it-iveness. You've got to keep at it all the time. 1934 J. A. LEE Children of Poor I. 19 With the irresponsibility of my..father and my mother's stick-to-itiveness, I an edifice and then..set the whole show toppling. 1979 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 8 Feb. 10/3 This man who made his million apparently more by stick-to-itiveness than brilliance.

SIDEBAR: Perseverence Quotient

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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