Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Jeff wrote to say that he gets the meaning of “Gotcha Journalism,” but wonders about related charges of nitpicking coming from conservative politicians.

Nitpickers are said to make a big deal out of minor issues. Lacking major complaints, they quibble over insignificant items. Originally, a nit was the egg of a parasitic insect like the louse. Later, by extension, it referred to the parasite itself.

Shakespeare used the word nit to designate an insignificant, inconsequential, and contemptible person.

  • Love's Labour's Lost, iv. i. 146: “And his Page . Ah heauens, it is most patheticall nit.”
  • Taming of the Shrew, iv. iii. 109: “Thou Flea, thou Nit, thou winter cricket, thou.”

Eventually, the term hit America. Humorist George Ade once wrote, “I don't read Books. I am an Intellectual Nit.”

Nit also shows up in nitwit, defined as a stupid, foolish, or idiotic person. Wit refers to the mind, the seat of cognition. The first citation mentioned in the OED is from The Los Angeles Times, 5 June 14: “After her trip to Virginia Miss Helen Morton was quoted as saying that Chicago men were ‘nit wits’.”

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

Check out Mike's program-based books here:

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.

Visit The Senior Corner at

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints