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ESL Story: Are you a nitpicker?

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There are several words to describe people who insist on telling you when you've got something wrong and make a big hoo-ha over it to such an extent that the interruption completely destroys what you are trying to say or do. They become obsessed with 'pernickety detail' and 'pettifogging minutiae'. The other thing about them is that they never seem to be embarrassed when they're doing it and any criticism of them seems to be like water off a duck's back. They dress the same way.

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Every item of clothing is in just the right place and never seems to wrinkle. They never have a hair out of place. And above all else they seem to get everything out of proportion. Let's say you've just splashed out a few million on a genuine Van Gogh and there it is hanging on the wall in your sitting room and you're bursting with pride over your latest acquisition. You ask our friend for an opinion and you're told that it's not quite hanging straight and needs moving a little bit to the left. Getting the point? Well, we have words for people like that: nitpickers, fusspots, pettifoggers. And I just hate them. Oh and they also insist on everything in their house or place being in straight lines and in order.

Many years ago when I was doing stuff for BBC radio I got an interview with a very important producer and I planned to tell this guy about a brilliant (at least I thought so) synopsis for a comedy series. The main character was to be such a 'pettifogger'. The grand man asked me to describe some of the characteristics of this central figure. I started off in an animated way and said that for example his desk would be a work of art with everything in its right place with pencils and pens in staright lines and - and then I happened to look down at the desk 'Mr Big Producer' was sitting at and saw that his desk was exactly like that. I lost the will to live at this stage and sad to say the 'brilliant' idea was never accepted.

So how do you get on with this kind of person? Do they bother you? Do you know someone like that? Are you, oh dear, one of them yourself?

If you want to share your thoughts on this story, click on the forum link below: Are you a nitpicker?

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Next:ESL Story: Putting your foot in it

Author: Alan Townend

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