Using the wrong fork at dinner is some people’s peccadillo.
Are you looking for a word to describe something that annoys you, but isn’t irksome enough to write a letter to the editor about (well, unless you’re that kind of person)?
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it:
peccadillo: a small mistake or fault that is not regarded as very bad or serious
A person’s peccadillo could be that their partner doesn’t fold laundry the way they like it, or their friend insists on driving exactly five miles over the speed limit. Peccadillo covers minor offenses. That means genocide, for example, falls outside most people’s peccadillo boundaries.
Humans have long needed a term to differentiate between a minor and a major fault. Peccadillo originates in English from the end of the 1500s, when English speakers borrowed it from the Spanish. In Spanish peccadillo means also means a minor sin, whereas pecado means a greater sin.
What are your peccadilloes? Tell me in the comments below.
imminent: ready to take place
eminent: standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted; conspicuous
Imminent is an adjective that describes something (such as an event) that is going to happen soon. It can be negative or positive.
One cannot dismiss the imminent danger of climate change.
Al has only three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle left. Completion is imminent.
Eminent is an adjective that describes something (such as a person) that is famous and popular (the best in a category). It is usually positive.
Heath is the eminent researcher in his field.
The new skyscraper has become the eminent symbol of the town.
Remember the difference
To tell imminent and eminent apart, think that imminent means immediate. (In actuality, the event imminent describes doesn’t have to happen right away, but simply soon. Still, it helps as a mnemonic.)
Test your imminent and eminent skills with a quiz. The answers are at the end.
- After winning the award, Dottie was known as the _______ chef in town.
- Daryl’s bad test score meant failing the class was _______.
- The thought of the _______ glee the cookies will bring made Kevin smile.
- The _______ product sold the most units.
Answers: 1. eminent 2. imminent 3. imminent 4. eminent
A hair shirt is as it sounds: a shirt made out of hair. Though they are rarely used today, historically people in some Christian religious orders wore them as a means of penance. The shirts were originally woven with goat hair and were worn next to the skin to keep the wearer in constant discomfort and awareness of the shirt’s presence. (The shirts evolved to contain bits of metal woven with hair. Delightful.)
Today, this item of self-torture survives in the language as a noun that means “one that irritates like a hair shirt” and as an adjective that means “austere and self-sacrificing.”
Here are some examples of hair shirt as a noun:
Uncle Harvey is such a hair shirt. I would rather drink soup from a toilet than listen to another of his “olden days” stories.
Merv thought yoga was a hair shirt until he tried it and enjoyed how limber he felt afterward.
Here are some examples of hair shirt as an adjective:
Carla felt so guilty about murdering her gardener that she chose to live a hair-shirt existence. She gave her belongings to charity and moved to the desert, where she survived by eating spiders and rats.
Getting healthy doesn’t mean living a hair-shirt lifestyle. Merv found vegetables to be delicious, and he got lots of dates from yoga class.